Aim is to help produce growers’ and packers’ access food safety educational materials.

A public-private organization, the Produce Safety Alliance, will provide produce growers and packagers with fundamental, on-farm food safety knowledge in advance of a proposed produce safety regulation. The organization consists of the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA/AMS) and CornellUniversity.

The new alliance is a three-year, $1.15 million partnership funded by FDA and USDA. It will be housed at CornellUniversity through a grant from AMS. Cornell’s national Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) program has been instrumental in the development of materials on GAPs and in its dissemination of food safety knowledge to the agricultural community.

Key elements of the alliance’s work include:

  • Developing a standardized, but multi-formatted and multi-lingual education program on GAPs and co-management.
  • Creating an information bank of up-to-date scientific and technical information related to on-farm and packing house produce safety, environmental co-management and eventually the FDA’s proposed produce safety rule.
  • Launching a website to make the alliance’s work and information readily accessible.
  • Establishing a network of educational collaborators.
  • Conducting an assessment of existing educational outreach tools to identify knowledge gaps and to provide for continuous updating.
  • Working with partners on the steering committee and others to develop and deliver train-the-trainer materials and sessions.

In 2011, FDA is expected to issue a proposed rule on the safe production, harvesting and packing of produce. The alliance is aimed at giving produce growers and packers training and educational materials as well as opportunities to learn about current risk- and science-based best food safety practices and future regulatory requirements.

The alliance will have representatives from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), land grant universities, growers and shippers, produce trade organizations and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, joining FDA, AMS and Cornell officials on the alliance’s steering committee.

“In our 12-plus years of working with growers and packers on how best to implement GAPs, we have seen how much they want to do the right thing and meet the industry demand for food safety,” says Betsy Bihn, coordinator of Cornell University’s National GAPs Program. “What growers and packers want is science-based information they can use in the fields and the packing houses to improve food safety practices in practical ways. Our goal is to meet that need today and down the road as FDA moves forward in its rule-making process.”

The FDA and USDA will issue updates on the progress and activities of the Produce Safety Alliance in the coming months. For more information, visit the FDA Web page: Fruits, Vegetables & Juices and/or the FDA Web page: Produce Safety Information.