AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala.—The Alabama Cooperative Extension System will continue to host Produce Safety Alliance training workshops throughout November and December.
The Produce Safety Rule is part of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed in 2011. This rule focuses on setting the first-ever federal regulatory standards for production, harvest and handling of fruits and vegetables
The rule leaves some growers subject to inspection by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries (ADAI). Because of this, Alabama Extension is partnering with the ADAI to prepare farmers to meet the food safety standards set by the regulation.
Produce (fruits and nuts, fungi, root, leafy, sprout and vine-stalk vegetables) is the number one cause of foodborne illness in the United States. These outbreaks account for nearly half of all foodborne illnesses.
Janet Johnson, an Alabama Extension food safety and quality regional agent, said this rule was enacted to provide safer produce for the consumers.
“We live in a consumer-driven world, and consumers are looking for safe food that is locally grown,” said Johnson, who is also a lead trainer for the Produce Safety Alliance. “By taking this class and working to do everything they can to provide a safer product, the farmer can earn the confidence of the consumer.”
Nov. 12—Chilton County
Clanton City Hall Kitchen
505 2nd Avenue North
Clanton, Alabama 35045
Contact: Elaine Densmore
Nov. 18 — Lawrence County
455 School Street
Moulton, Alabama 35650
Contact: Shannon Murray
Dec. 9—Montgomery County
Alabama Agriculture and Industries Building
1445 Federal Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36107
Contact: Lula Tyson-Bailey
Growers affected by this rule must complete a one-day produce safety training course. However, even if a grower is not affected by this rule, attending this workshop will help ensure the growth and safe selling of produce.
The course will cover:
- worker health, hygiene and training
- agricultural water for production and post-harvest use
- biological soil amendments
- domesticated and wild animals
- equipment, tool buildings and sanitation
“This course teaches farmers how to prepare for inspections,” said Jean Weese, a former Alabama Extension food safety specialist. “Preparations include training employees, minimizing wildlife damage and field contamination, water treatments and record keeping to prove they are in compliance with the new regulation.”
Workshop coordinators will provide necessary documents to participants on flash drives, as well as in paper form. In addition, spreadsheets for planning are being provided for logs and development tracking. These personnel also offer an on-farm review prior to compliance inspections.
Does This Rule Affect Me?
Not every grower of fruits and vegetables will be covered by the rule. There is no registration requirement for farms that are exempt from the rule.
How do you know if you will need this training? If your answer to any of the following questions is ‘yes’, you are exempt from this training requirement.
- grow only for personal or on-farm consumption?
- sell less than $25,000 in produce annually?
- grow only produce that will be further processed in a manner that will kill pathogens?
- grow and sell only thee following crops?
- cocoa beans
- coffee beans
- sweet corn
- winter squash
- sweet potatoes
- water chestnuts
If you answer ‘no’:
- Are your farm’s annual food sales less than $500,000?
- Do you sell more than 50 percent of your annual food sales to restaurants and retail food establishments (including direct-to-store sales) located in your state or within a 275-mile radius; and/or to consumers through direct marketing?
If you answer ‘yes’ to both 1 and 2, your farm may be eligible for a qualified exemption and you are not required to attend this training.
If you answer ‘no’:
- Are the food sales from your farm:
- over $500,000 annually? Your compliance date was Jan. 26, 2018.
- less than $500,000 but over $250,000? Your compliance date was Jan. 28, 2019.
- between $25,000 and $250,000? Your compliance date is Jan. 27, 2020.
Johnson said additional workshops can be scheduled by contacting local Extension offices.