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Food safety.

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Shannon Dininny

Perhaps no two words have frustrated U.S. fruit growers more — growers who believe their products are already safe and healthy for consumers.

But with passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, growers and packers nationally are scrambling to meet new regulations that impose higher standards and more record keeping on everything from water sampling in the orchard to sanitary practices in the packing house.

These new requirements can be confusing for some people — and daunting for many — particularly when some rules have yet to even be finalized.

This isn’t news. What is news today, and in the months to come, are the research efforts underway to address questions and concerns about how best to meet these new standards.

Good Fruit Grower recognizes the vital importance of this research to you, and just as we bring you the latest news about spray recommendations and trellis angles, we also will keep you up to date on food safety research in the months ahead.

In this issue, you’ll find tips for taking a proper water sample in the field from researchers at the Western Center for Food Safety.

You’ll also find a package of stories by our regular freelance writer in Michigan, Leslie Mertz, about whole genome sequencing, the high-tech wizardry that enables regulators to track a pathogen to its source during an outbreak.

It’s the nudge to remind you why you should care, because that source, however unlikely, could be your orchard or packing house.

And even if it isn’t, your market is still likely to be affected.

Which means everyone is in this together, right?

Therein lies the point. Some of you have already found ways to manageably implement many of these requirements; others are still playing catch-up.

But the rules apply to everyone, and in the event of illnesses tied to fruit, the ramifications affect everyone.

So, to those of you who are ahead of the curve, share your stories with us. Help your neighbors, because if there’s one arena where competition shouldn’t matter, it’s food safety.

To everyone aiming to learn more: Ask questions. Sign up for industry workshops. And stay tuned.

We’ll have more on food safety in Good Fruit Grower in the months ahead. It’s all part of our mission of service to the grower community. •

– by Shannon Dininny, senior editor of Good Fruit Grower. You can reach her at Shannon@goodfruit.com