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Food safety initiative for the mushroom industry

by Tad Thompson | August 17, 2009
As many as 25 growers have already been certified under the commodity- specific Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices program, according to Laura Phelps, president of the American Mushroom Institute, which is based in Washington, DC.

Ms. Phelps met with The Produce News Aug. 4 in the AMI's Avondale, PA, satellite office to discuss MGAP and other industry topics.

She indicated that in December 2008, the Fresh Products Branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service, in collaboration with the AMI and Penn State University, finalized a commodity-specific audit using the standards outlined in the mushroom industry's best practices document. The standards formal title is Mushroom Good Agricultural Practices Program: Industry-Wide Food Safety Standards for Fresh Mushroom Growing, Harvesting & Shipping. The MGAP audit is only the third commodity-specific audit developed by the USDA and the only one that is national in scope.

MGAP standards are consistent with current food-safety guidelines for the fresh produce industry described in the U.S. Food & Drug Administration document Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits & Vegetables.

Ms. Phelps said that the USDA representatives from Philadelphia; Reading, PA; Washington, DC; Chicago; and California met in Avondale last December to train to do audits for MGAP. The newly qualified auditors immediately began their work, and since that time, PrimusLabs, through its work with Monterey Mushrooms Inc. in Watsonville, CA, has become another MGAP auditor. Ms. Phelps said that the AMI is pleased that the industry has a variety of auditing options. The important factor, which was achieved, is that the industry works with one set of standards.

Fourteen specific standards are presented by MGAP, which was primarily drafted by Luke LaBorde, a food science professor at Penn State.

Four industry training sessions for MGAP compliance were held early this year, and 100 industry participants attended all of these sessions, Ms. Phelps said. The number of firms that have passed their audits rises steadily, she noted.

To assist growers with implementation of the MGAP program, the AMI developed and provided a number of educational and training tools.

According to an AMI release, the Mushroom Industry Food Safety Training Kit was developed for production supervisors, quality-assurance personnel, extension agents, and/or industry consultants who wish to conduct food- safety training at mushroom farms or packinghouses.

All training materials including the handbook and templates for the checklists, schedules, logs and Standard Operating Procedures are available at The information is available in English and Spanish. Ms. Phelps has met with representatives of the FDA to outline the MGAP program. She noted that they were "receptive and impressed" by the MGAP program.

(For more on mushrooms, see the Aug. 17, 2009, issue of The Produce News.)