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The Washington State Tree Fruit Association has received a grant of almost $217,000 to provide training to orchardists and fruit packing houses on how to comply with new food safety regulations.

The Food and Drug Administration is issuing regulations as it implements the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.

The grant will come from federal Specialty Crop Research Initiative funds administered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Jon DeVaney, president of the Tree Fruit Association, said the first training event will be a food safety class on the afternoon of December 9, during the association’s Annual Meeting in Yakima, which will review the key issues relating to the Produce Safety and the Preventive Controls rules that will impact growers and packers.

Early next year, the association will present several training sessions in Yakima and Wenatchee addressing specifics of those two rules as well as the Transportation Rule and the Foreign Supplier Rule, which could impact packing companies that import fruit, such as managed apple varieties, from other countries.

DeVaney said the timeline for the training has not yet been fixed because the industry is still working to understand the implications of the rules.

“There have been questions about what some of the language means and how it’s going to be interpreted, so we want to give time for some of those questions to be clarified before we offer training,” he said. “We want to be sure we’re giving out correct information to the industry.”

The association will identify experts on specific issues, such as on water testing and water management, to provide the training.

While the FDA’s training efforts will cover many different commodities, the WSTFA will target training to the tree fruit industry.

A complication is that some grower-packers will be subject to the Produce Safety Rule, while others will fall under the Preventive Controls Rule.

“That’s why it’s going to be a challenge for people in our industry,” DeVaney said. “Everyone wants to do the right thing and be in compliance, but if you have multiple rules and multiple hundreds of pages, when growers have plenty of other things to be doing, figuring what they need to do to be in compliance is the biggest challenge.”

There will be more details on the Food Safety Modernization Act in coming issues of Good Fruit Grower. •

– by Geraldine Warner