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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 about implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

I’ve heard about a new program called On Farm Readiness Reviews. What is this and how can it benefit me?

The On Farm Readiness Reviews (OFRR) is a voluntary program developed by the National Association of Departments of Agriculture and produce safety extension specialists to help farms evaluate their current food safety programs against the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule (PSR).

In Washington state, the Washington State Department of Agriculture Produce Safety Program is leading the effort to conduct OFRRs in collaboration with Washington State University Extension and Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission (WTFRC) personnel and will be kicking off the reviews this growing season.

OFRRs are essentially an on-farm discussion to see if there are any practices or policies that may need to be changed ahead of the PSR inspections. WSDA inspectors will be conducting these reviews; these inspections are not regulatory in nature unless an egregious situation is witnessed and the farm is unable to withhold all contaminated product.

This opportunity can help farms feel more confident in their programs or address questions they have related to the Produce Safety Rule. If you are interested in learning more or signing up, please contact Karen Ullmann (kullmann@agr.wa.gov). OFRR will also be offered in other states, including Oregon (contact Sue Davis at sdavis@oda.state.or.us) and Idaho (contact Brigitta.Gruenberg@isda.idaho.gov).

What resources can I use to help develop my food safety programs?

We are fortunate to have several groups working together to provide training and resources for your food safety needs. The Washington State Tree Fruit Association (wstfa.org) offers training for growers and packers throughout the year, including Cleaning and Sanitation, Environmental Monitoring and Water Testing Workshops, which incorporate hands-on demonstrations in packing houses and orchards.

WSTFA has also developed several videos on hand washing, cross contamination, cross contact and good food safety practices that can be easily implemented for training employees; the last video released addresses good agricultural practices in the orchard and was produced in English and Spanish. For more information about the videos or to get a copy, contact Jacqui Gordon at jacqui@wstfa.org.

Washington State University Extension has recently consolidated and updated produce safety information and resources so that growers and packing houses have one WSU website for all things produce safety, from resources to upcoming events. Take an opportunity to check it out at foodsafety.wsu.edu. WSDA’s Produce Safety Program team also has helpful information online about outreach and training events they are coordinating at agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/ProduceSafety/.

The Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS) has created a clearinghouse, where produce safety professionals throughout the U.S. can upload their resources (uvm.edu/extension/necafs/clearinghouse). Also included in the clearinghouse are FDA Technical Assistance Network (TAN) questions and answers uploaded by users.

Last, but certainly not least, the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission has the final reports for all previously funded food safety projects on its website (treefruitresearch.com/searchable-database). Review these tree fruit specific resources to help build supporting documentation for your food safety policies.

Are Produce Safety Alliance trainings going to be offered next year?

Yes, the WSTFA and WSU Extension are planning on offering several PSA trainings in English and Spanish this fall and into 2019. Companies can also contact WSTFA if they want to organize a PSA course for their growers, sponsored by WSDA.

The WSDA has continued to subsidize a set number of trainings, which greatly reduce the cost of attendance. Check their websites to see what trainings will be taking place close to you (wstfa.org or foodsafety.wsu.edu). Make sure to get signed up when they are announced; farms with over $500,000 in annual produce sales are already required to have at least one supervisor or responsible party who has completed the food safety training offered by the PSA or an equivalent curriculum by the FDA, and compliance inspections will begin in 2019. •

—by Kate Woods, Ines Hanrahan, Jacqui Gordon and Faith Critzer

Please contact Jacqui Gordon (jacqui@wstfa.org; 509-452-8555) with the Washington State Tree Fruit Association for questions on food safety training opportunities; Kate Woods (woods@nwhort.org) with the Northwest Horticultural Council for questions on the FSMA law and its requirements; and Ines Hanrahan, Ph.D., (hanrahan@treefruitresearch.com) of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, and Faith Critzer, Ph.D., a WSU produce safety Extension specialist for information on research related to FSMA and food safety.