WASHINGTON -- With the industry bracing for proposed federal growing
standards for fresh produce next year, the Food & Drug Administration
announced Nov. 4 a new public-private partnership that will supply growers
and packers with on-the-farm training materials.
The new Produce Safety Alliance is a three-year, $1.15 million partnership
funded by the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and housed at
Cornell University, which already runs a Good Agricultural Practices program,
"As we traveled around the country listening to growers and packers and
soliciting their comments even before we propose a produce safety rule, we
have committed ourselves to just this kind of collaborative effort," FDA Deputy
Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor in a press statement. “We also know
that small growers and packers are especially interested in the kind of hands-
on training and support envisioned by the alliance.”
“What growers and packers want is science-based information they can use in
the fields and the packinghouses to improve food-safety practices in practical
ways,” Betsy Bihn, coordinator of Cornell University's National GAPs Program,
added in the statement. “Our goal is to meet that need today and down the
road as FDA moves forward in its rulemaking process.”
The alliance will be run by a steering committee with representatives from the
Association of Food & Drug Officials, the National Association of State
Departments of Agriculture, land grant universities, growers and shippers,
produce trade organizations, FDA, Cornell University and the USDA.
Scott Horsfall, chief executive officer of the California Leafy Greens Marketing
Agreement, applauded the new group and suggested that LGMA be invited to
participate in the steering committee
“The objectives of this new initiative are in line with those of the LGMA,” said
Jamie Strachan, a grower-shipper of leafy greens who is chairman the LGMA
Advisory Board. “We share a commitment with the Produce Safety Alliance to
ensuring compliance with food-safety practices on the farm and we believe
this can best be accomplished through a strong collaboration between
industry and government.”
The Arizona leafy greens industry also recognizes that food-safety training is
critical in the field and unveiled its own program the same day FDA
announced the Produce Safety Alliance.
The Arizona Leafy Greens consortium is rolling out an initiative to educate
field workers in safe food-handling practices with a uniform set of guidelines
that breaks new ground in the leafy greens industry.
"Since the formal inception of this program in 2007, our third-party audits
have revealed that most of the infractions happen at the field level," said
Vicki-Lynne Scott, technical subcommittee chairperson and board member of
the Arizona Leafy Greens Products Shipper Marketing Agreement. "We
developed a program that really drives home the importance of safety training
while keeping in mind the very different cultural attributes of Hispanic
workers, which make up the majority of those in the field."
The Food Safety Training Kit is a bilingual food-safety training program
aimed at employees in the leafy greens industry developed by Sergio Nieto-
Montenegro of El Paso, TX-based Hispanic Workforce Management.
"This is an easy to use program that can be used by anyone who is
responsible for training employees," said Mr. Nieto-Montenegro. "It can be
taught in a training room with a Powerpoint, or using a flip chart on the
tailgate of a truck."