Public-private group to offer guidance on produce safety

Nov 4, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Two federal government agencies announced today they are joining with Cornell University to launch a program to provide produce growers and packagers with food safety information.

The Produce Safety Alliance is a 3-year, $1.15 million partnership to be housed at Cornell and funded by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the FDA said in a news release. The program is intended to help producers prepare for produce safety regulations that the FDA will propose in 2011.

The FDA said Cornell's Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) program has been a leader in developing GAPs materials and disseminating food safety information to the agricultural sector.

The agency said the main elements of the alliance's work include:

  • Developing a standardized, multi-formatted, multilingual education program on GAPs and co-management for food safety and environmental protection
  • Creating a bank of scientific and technical information about on-farm and packinghouse produce safety, environmental co-management, and, in time, the FDA's proposed produce safety rule
  • Launching a Web site to make the alliance's information easily accessible
  • Setting up a network of educational collaborators
  • Assessing existing educational outreach tools to identify knowledge gaps and provide for continuous updating
  • Working with other organizations to create and deliver train-the-trainer materials and programs

Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said that from listening to growers and packers in preparation for developing produce safety regulations, the FDA knows that "small growers and packers are especially interested in the kind of hands-on training and support envisioned by the alliance."

The alliance's steering committee includes representatives from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, land-grant universities, growers and shippers, produce trade organizations, and the USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service, the FDA said.

Officials said that in developing its materials, the alliance will consider the voluntary and contractual produce safety standards already used by many producers around the country.

While the FDA is moving toward establishing produce safety regulations, the USDA is developing a voluntary marketing agreement for leafy green vegetables with the goal of improving safety. The proposed agreement spells out best practices for minimizing microbial contamination of leafy greens during growing and handling and provides for an audit-based verification program.

See also:

Nov 4 FDA news release

Jul 21 CIDRAP News story "FDA gets bumper crop of comments on produce safety"

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