Few things are certain in farming and no amount of planning can prevent or undo the damage of an untimely hail storm or hard freeze.

But there’s one thing one thing produce growers and packers already know about the 2018 season. They know whether they are among the 35,000 operations that must comply with new federal food safety rules next year.

Food Safety Summit 2017 produce fieldKnown simply as the Produce Rule, the new regulations were mandated by Congress in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and include preventive actions ranging from testing water for bacteria to training requirements for supervisors.

Produce Rule compliance datesSection 112.22 (c) of the Produce Rule requires that at least one supervisor or responsible party from a farm “must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to the standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the FDA.”

That training didn’t exist before FSMA was signed into law in 2011. It didn’t exist a year ago. But it does now, and it’s on the agenda for the 2017 Food Safety Summit, set for May 8-11 at the Stephens Convention Center near O’Hare International Airport in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, IL.

Developed by the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) based at Cornell University, the training curriculum has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The PSA launched its “Train the Trainers” program in September 2016. In the six months since then, Don Stoeckel and five others have trained 1,000 trainers across the country.

Stoeckel is scheduled at the instructor for the eight-hour training course offered on the first day of the summit, May 8. The course satisfies the FSMA Product Rule training requirement, with participants receiving a certificate of course attendance from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO).

Don Stoeckel
Don Stoeckel

“Much of the Produce Rule is based on GAP (Good Agricultural Practices), so people who are used to GAP audits are already close,” Stoeckel said recently. “The big exception is the water quality requirement. The concept is the same but the long-term strategy now involves statistical calculations.

“Two things do set this training apart from general GAP training, though. This is standardized, therefore everyone is learning the same content. And the focus is on the actual requirements of the Produce Rule.”

Stoeckel said there are tools to help growers and packers of fresh fruits and vegetables with the higher math, including online tools from the University of California-Davis and Arizona State University.

Practical tips like the online tools are just one nugget of the food safety information included in the PSA Grower Training course. Stoeckel will cover how to develop and implement a food safety plan that meets the requirements of FSMA and the Produce Rule.

Stoeckel knows the material from several perspectives. He is an environmental microbiologist who has collaborated with the Cornell National Good Agricultural Practices Program for nearly a decade on water quality issues related to food safety.

For the past five years, he has been an instructor of the online GAPs Produce Safety Course. Stoeckel has 15 years of professional research experience at Battelle Memorial Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey. He also has served in adjunct teaching roles at Cornell University, Ohio State University, Auburn University, Columbus State Community College, and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.

Stoeckel joined the Produce Safety Alliance staff in August 2015 as the Midwest Regional Extension Associate.

Food Safety Summit 2017 previewThe PSA Grower Training course is just one of six certification courses the 2017 Food Safety Summit is offering. Other courses are:

  • New Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) courses on the FSMA rules on Preventive Controls for Human Foods; Preventive Controls for Animal Food; and Foreign Supplier Verification Programs.
  • Seafood HACCP – Segment 2; and
  • Professional Food Safety Auditor Training.

In addition to the educational sessions and opportunities to hear from government officials in person, the Food Safety Summit trade show floor offers more than 200 booths with representatives from businesses, government agencies, publications and academic institutions available to interact with summit attendees.

Early-bird registration rates for the 2017 Food Safety Summit are in effect until April 14. After April 14 full registration fees apply. Those attendees who sign up for the PSA Grower Training course will receive a 15 percent discount on the rest of the summit registration fees.

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