Cornell leads effort to train farmers on new produce safety rules

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) announced the start of two national produce safety training programs designed to help the produce industry understand the critical role it plays in public health and prepare it to meet the new regulatory requirements in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.

The PSA Grower Training Course will provide instruction in Good Agricultural Practices, co-management, and the regulatory requirements in the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. The PSA Train-the-Trainer course will help build a cadre of trainers across the nation. The two courses expand the offerings of trainings available to the produce industry to help growers and packers reduce microbial risks on the farm.

The PSA Grower Training is most important for those that need to comply with FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements, particularly those with compliance dates in January 2018.  Additionally, this training is one tool in the toolbox for growers who want to gain knowledge about the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, understand how their current GAPs fit within the regulatory framework, learn about additional GAPs, and gain exposure to terminology that is used in the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

“Despite the fact that some growers may be eligible for exemptions or otherwise excluded from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements, the PSA curriculum has valuable information for all growers. It is important for growers to understand laws that impact the industry as a whole and it is likely some buyers will require growers to follow the FSMA Produce Safety Rules whether or not growers are subject to the rule requirements.” said Dr. Elizabeth Bihn the Director of the Produce Safety Alliance.

Based at Cornell University, PSA is a partnership between the university, FDA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA AMS). It was established to provide fundamental, on-farm food safety knowledge to growers and packers, and to build a cadre of proficient trainers to teach the new curriculum.

PSA Grower Training Curriculum and Courses

The PSA has developed the Grower Training Course consisting of seven modules that teach Good Agricultural Practices, co-management, and the regulatory requirements in the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This training, which contains approximately 7 hours of content that may be offered as a one day or over the course of multiple days, will satisfy the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement that At least one supervisor or responsible party for your farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.” Upon completion of the course, growers are eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials as verification of their attendance at the training.

 

PSA Grower Training Curriculum Modules

  • Introduction to Produce Safety
  • Worker Health, Hygiene, and Training
  • Soil Amendments
  • Wildlife, Domesticated Animals, and Land Use
  • Agricultural Water, including Production Water and Postharvest Water
  • Postharvest Handling and Sanitation
  • How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan

 

The PSA Grower Training Curriculum was developed through a four-year nationwide development process. Ten Working Committees, composed of one hundred seventy-eight unique members including fruit and vegetable growers, identified key priority areas to be addressed in the grower curriculum. Grower preferences regarding produce safety training programs were collected by hosting eight in-person farmer focus groups nationwide, collecting feedback from eighty-nine produce growers.  The PSA then worked with their Working Committees and the produce industry to finalize the curriculum content.  Once the final FSMA Produce Safety Rule was released on November 27, 2015, the PSA worked with FDA to ensure the content was aligned with the final FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

 

 

PSA Train-the-Trainer (TTT) Courses

 

Initially, the PSA will focus training efforts on its 2-day PSA Train-the-Trainer Course to develop a corps of national trainers. All PSA Grower Training modules are included in the TTT course.  Individuals who complete the TTT will be eligible to receive the PSA Train-the-Trainer Certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials. This certificate verifies that the holder has attended all PSA Grower Training modules and is PSA Trainer.  Attending the PSA TTT also makes participants eligible to apply to become a PSA Lead Trainer, capable of offering their own PSA Grower Training Courses.

 

The PSA is working with collaborators at land-grant institutions, the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), grower organizations, produce industry groups, and trade organizations on the launch.  The schedule for PSA Grower Training and Train-the-Trainer Courses, as well as details on each course, can be found on the PSA website at www.producesafetyalliance.cornell.edu.  It is anticipated that courses will continue to be added, so please check the site often if there is not a course in your areas, if courses are filled, or not yet open for registration.