Elizabeth Bihn

Elizabeth Bihn

About 50 farmers, many of them apple growers, took one of their first official first steps toward complying with the intricate U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act regulation called the Produce Safety Rule at a workshop Monday in Syracuse, New York.

“You have successfully completed 112.22(c),” said Elizabeth Bihn, director of the Produce Safety Alliance at the end of the seven-hour training.

Bihn was referring to a clause in the Produce Safety Rule, which requires all farms to make sure one person in authority completes a food safety training approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration.

The workshop filled the Becker Forum slot, a symposium that kicks off the annual Empire State Producers Expo, which continues through Thursday in Syracuse.

The Produce Safety Rule is one of seven under the Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, designed to prevent food-borne illnesses. It covers everything from irrigation water quality to hand washing. The Produce Safety Alliance is collaboration of Cornell University, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fresh produce growers meet the FSMA requirements.

Some of the highlights of Monday’s workshop included:

  • Cleaning is scrubbing away material dirt, sanitizing is treating a cleaned surface to eliminate microorganisms. Food safety requires both.
  • A zero-risk farm operation is impossible to achieve.
  • FSMA does not require a written farm food safety plan, but the Produce Safety Alliance recommends one to help growers identify their risks, train workers and prepare for questions from buyers and third-party auditors.
  • Humorous, if a little graphic, descriptions of bathroom activity stemming from the hand-washing discussions.

Roughly 15 of the growers who attended Monday will take a follow-up course Tuesday that offers hands-on help writing individualized food safety plans.