Michigan Educators Prepare Growers for Comment on Food Safety Modernization Act

03/1/2013

January 4th 2011 marked an important day for food safety in fresh produce production.  On this day, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (also known as FSMA) which requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop and implement a produce safety rule. Two years after enactment, the FDA issued the proposed rule on January 4, 2013. The proposed rule would establish both sweeping and specific standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding fresh produce that  are meant to make the safest produce supply in the world even safer. 

The proposal covers agricultural water; biological soil amendments; worker health and hygiene; domesticated and wild animals; and equipment, tools and buildings. As proposed, some parts of the rule are very similar to past guidelines regarding food safety while others are not.

The proposed rule would apply to fresh produce that is commonly consumed raw. Many crops that are usually cooked would not be covered by the produce rule. (These include asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, eggplant, kale, kidney beans and winter squash). In addition, if the fresh produce is being grown and sold for processing, it is not covered in the rule.

Several Michigan organizations are collaborating and developing education programs through March to provide more information on FSMA and its impact on growers and distributors in Michigan.

Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) is hosting workshops with Phil Tocco, Michigan State University Extension Educator and food safety expert, to help Michigan farmers get a grasp on these food safety requirements.

“With new legislation in the works,” said Michelle Napier-Dunnings, Executive Director of MIFFS, “farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs are critical contributors to the conversation. Farming regulations need to reflect farming practices in 2013 and beyond. Only with engagement from all those working in the food system is it likely that good decisions will be made.”

Upcoming MIFFS food safety events include:

A workshop providing an overview of FSMA updates and what they mean for Michigan growers will take place March 21 (9am - 12pm) at the Kalamazoo County MSU Extension Office, 3299 Gull Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49048.

Two workshops on “Tackling Traceability” will be held March 12 (9am-12pm) at the Sacred Heart Church Activities Building, 3451 Rivard St. Detroit, MI 48207 and March 27 (9am - 12pm) at the Kalamazoo County MSU Extension Office, 3299 Gull Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49048. These workshops will focus on the importance of a produce traceability plan to protect farms in case of a recall or foodborne illness outbreak and teaching growers how to develop and implement a traceability plan.

The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems Michigan Food Hub Network is sponsoring a “Food Hubs and Food Safety” webinar on Thursday March 14, 2013 (2:00-3:30pm). At this webinar, attendees will learn the latest on how the Food Safety Modernization Act proposed rules relate to Michigan from staff of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

Presenters will include Allen Krizek (MDARD), who will present on FSMA and the comment period in Michigan as well as share more information on the Food Safety Risk Assessment Tool and how it is helping small farmers connect to new markets in Michigan; Natasha Lantz (Marquette Food Cooperative), who will discuss opportunities and challenges for small farmers supplying food hubs and other retail markets; and Steve Warshawer (small farmer and National Good Food Network Food Safety Coordinator) who will provide an update on the Group Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) approach and assess Group GAP for Michigan small growers.