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Questions abound about implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). To keep you abreast of the latest information, Good Fruit Grower, in cooperation with industry professionals, is presenting an occasional column to answer some of the more frequently asked questions.

There are several organizations working together to develop training programs and education materials that are relevant for the tree fruit industry. All seven FSMA Rules have training components that are required for compliance and successful implementation of the regulation. Public-private alliances have been created as a training resource for industry:

—The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) prepares growers to meet the requirements for the implementation of the Produce Safety Rule by developing train-the-trainer and grower training courses.

—The Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) develops core curriculum for companies to comply with the Preventive Controls Rule for Human Food and Animal Food. Washington State University is offering classes that are subsidized by a Washington State Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant and directed toward small- and medium-size growers and processors. Universities in other parts of the country are also offering classes.

—In the Northwest, the Washington State Tree Fruit Association provides additional training and educational programs in partnership with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission and the Northwest Horticultural Council, combining tree fruit specific research studies, policy aspects of the rules and practical hands-on demonstrations.

—Additionally, the United Fresh Produce Association is hosting several events and training programs for fresh produce industry related to food safety and FSMA.

What is the Washington State Tree Fruit Association doing to help growers in 2017?

In January 2017, WSTFA organized a train-the-trainer workshop in partnership with the Produce Safety Alliance in order to build a strong base of trainers who will then be able to train growers to be in compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. This two-day course provided detailed information about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), co-management of natural resources and food safety, FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements, and a review of the seven module PSA grower training curriculum. We are also planning to offer FSMA water quality testing workshops in early May for orchard and packing house food safety managers to review sampling and testing methodologies necessary for compliance with FSMA agricultural water testing requirements. This course will address testing requirements under FSMA for microbial water quality in local irrigation water. We will partner with the Western Center for Food Safety from University of California, Davis to talk about basic concepts for water sampling, as well as the possibility of group sampling and in-house laboratories. Our participants will be able to take water samples under the guidance of our instructors.

Next, WSTFA will host cleaning and sanitation workshops with emphasis on hand-washing techniques and avoidance of biofilm buildup. These training programs will have Spanish translation and will be carried out in apple and cherry packing houses. Additional workshops include an environmental monitoring workshop, programs on how to update food safety plans and how to develop an environmental monitoring plan, and PCQI (preventive controls qualified individual) training specific for the tree fruit industry. All workshops are subsidized with funding from a Specialty Crop Block Grant and private industry supplier donations in order to keep registration fees as low as possible. For workshop dates, please contact Jacqui Gordon (jacqui@wstfa.org) or visit the WSU Tree Fruit Extension webpage (treefruit.wsu.edu) or the Good Fruit Grower calendar at goodfruit.com.

How can the tree fruit industry be involved with the training programs that WSTFA organizes?

People interested in packing house or orchard food safety can contact Jacqui Gordon with suggestions for future workshops or educational materials. Our workshops last year were successful because of the participation of numerous industry experts, who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with our participants, as well as the collaboration of industry members and facilities. WSTFA has WSDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funding to develop training programs and address the needs of tree fruit producers and packers in Washington regarding the requirements and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and we rely on communication from industry to identify areas of need. We will also be looking for facilities that would be willing to host these workshops in actual warehouse settings. We always look for people from your cleaning and sanitation crews, your food safety team members, your QA/QC (quality assurance/quality control) leads and technicians to help with the training, which in turn serves as a great learning opportunity for them as well. •

– by Jacqui Gordon

Jacqui Gordon is director of education and member services for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. Please contact her (jacqui@wstfa.org; 509-452-8555) for questions on food safety training opportunities, Kate Woods (woods@nwhort.org) or Laura Grunenfelder (laura@nwhort.org) with the Northwest Horticultural Council for questions on the FSMA law and its requirements, and Ines Hanrahan (hanrahan@treefruitresearch.com) of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission for information on research related to FSMA and food safety.