Oct 22, 2018
October 22, 2018 MOUNT VERNON, WA — They’re out there on the front lines waging a battle against dangerous pathogens that can contaminate your food and make you sick or even kill you. Yet most people don’t even think about them when they buy their food. Who are these food-safety soldiers? None other than the farmworkers, the people who harvest and pack the fruits and vegetables you buy.
Most people don’t see them simply because they’re often working far from towns, cities or major thoroughfares. Instead, they’re out in the fields or in the packing sheds in farm country. No wonder they’re often described as “an invisible workforce.”
But with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, agricultural employers realize that their farmworkers need to play an important role in preventing microscopic food pathogens, such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, from contaminating crops.
Along with that, they’re also realizing that the workers need to be trained. Prevention is the name of the game simply because contaminated produce doesn’t look any different from good produce. It isn’t a matter of quickly spotting the problem and throwing the contaminated fruit or vegetables away.
This means, of course, that farmers not only need to provide food-safety training to workers but also provide what’s necessary for them to keep food safe from contamination.
With that in mind, Bri Ewing, a food-science educator, shared information about what’s required of growers during her presentation, “Worker Health, Hygiene and Training,” a module of the Produce Safety Alliance’s standard curriculum. Attending the all-day training course on Oct 16 at the Washington State University Research Center were about 30 growers from northwest Washington State.
The alliance is a collaboration between Cornell University, FDA, and USDA to prepare fresh produce growers to meet the regulatory requirements included in the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
Training sessions based on the alliance’s standard curriculum will be held all across the nation. Go here for locations, dates and times.
The all-day training course is one way to satisfy the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule requirement that at least one supervisor or responsible party for a farm must have successfully completed food safety training at least equivalent to that received under standardized curriculum recognized as adequate by the Food and Drug Administration.
After attending the training course, participants will be eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) that verifies they have completed the training course.
The training course includes an overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act, along with modules on farmworkers, soil amendments, agricultural water, post-harvest handling, and sanitation.
Faith Critzer, one of the trainers and the Produce Safety Extension Specialist for Washington state, said that the Produce Safety Rule was driven by widespread concern over continuing outbreaks of food poisoning caused by raw produce and the need to prevent them. Many of the outbreaks caused serious foodborne illnesses and hospitalizations, and in some cases, even deaths.
The rule establishes, for the first time, science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
For the most part, the rule covers produce that is eaten raw and therefore doesn’t go through a “kill step” such as cooking. It doesn’t cover produce that is rarely eaten raw.