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From: The eUpdate, 1.18.2012

Produce Pros Welcome New USDA Food Safety Tool

Free resource assists smaller growers with vital materials

A new, free online food safety tool from the USDA, designed to help fruit and vegetable producers create their own custom food safety plans, has drawn praise from farmers. Available at onfarmfoodsafety.org, the resource specifically targets small to mid-scale fruit and vegetable growers with a comprehensive set of record-keeping tools and training materials.

With user input, the site creates an individualized food safety manual that includes best practices and standard forms and training materials.

Growers are instructed to gather their existing food safety materials, such as policies, lab test results, and training logs, and are guided through a series of questions on topics including worker health and hygiene, agricultural chemicals, and soil and pest control. Using their input, the site creates an individualized food safety manual that includes best practices and standard forms and training materials.

Ray Gilmer, vice president of communications for the United Fresh Produce Association, calls the site an outstanding resource. “It’s a tremendous eye opener for any operation that hasn’t invested the time they should have up to now in improving their food safety operation,” he said. “You can see all the ways you can bring your program up to speed, and it also provides an easy reference to compare what you might be doing with what others might be doing. If one of your best customers is sending an auditor by, you can be confident of your ability to be prepared.”

The tool was unveiled in late December, and Gilmer expects that it will receive a flurry of renewed interest when the FDA announces regulations for the enforcement of FSMA, due out soon. “I think that will get a lot of companies thinking more seriously about their food safety programs, and this website will be one of the first resources we point them to.”

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