Friday, February 9, 2018

Food safety starts on the farm

Karla Salp

Each participant receives a binder packed with information
In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed into law as the first major food safety reform in over 70 years. With the passage of FSMA came new requirements for farmers, most notably pertaining to the safe growing and postharvest handling of produce.

Less known is the fact that any farm with more than $500,000 in annual sales is required to send at least one employee to mandated grower training on produce safety. In Washington, this amounts to about 2,000 farms required to take the training. Many more farms may also elect to take the training to improve their food safety knowledge and practices.

WSDA’s new Produce Safety Program is collaborating with Washington State University and the Produce Safety Alliance to put on trainings that meet the FSMA requirement. These day-long trainings are being held at various locations throughout the state and new training dates continue to be added.

Here’s an overview of topics covered in the training:

  • An introduction to produce safety
  • Worker health, hygiene, and training
  • Working with soil amendments
  • Wildlife, domesticated animals, and land use
  • Agricultural water – production water and postharvest water
  • Developing a farm food safety plan

The training focuses on helping farmers understand food safety concerns that growers need to address on the farm. It does not tell farmers exactly what they must do, recognizing that each farming operation is unique. Instead, the training focuses on thinking through food safety concerns and enabling farms to develop their own food safety plans to address the unique challenges and opportunities on their own farms.

For many farms, the training provides a refresher and reinforces their existing food safety practices. “It’s just like GlobalGAP*,” one farmer said during the training. But whoever attends the trainings will likely come away with new ideas on improving food safety on their farms, as well as a better understanding of current regulation.

Several trainings are still available to attend before farming season begins in earnest:
  • Feb. 15 – Vancouver
  • March 6 – Mount Vernon
  • March 6-7 – Mount Vernon (Train the trainer)
Visit our website to register for these and future trainings about produce safety. You can also email the WSDA Produce Safety Program with questions or to request training in your area. Visit the Produce Safety Alliance website for more produce safety resources and to find trainings around the country.

*GlobalGAP, or Global Good Agricultural Practices, is a voluntary certification program focused on ensuring a safe and sustainable global food supply.