Food Safety Modernization Act website, workshops offered by Penn State Extension

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania produce growers, food processors and animal-feed producers striving to navigate the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) now have new educational resources to help them determine what their farms and businesses must do to comply with new regulations. Penn State Extension recently launched a new FSMA information website and will be organizing several FSMA educational workshops throughout the state during 2017. 

Over the next several years, the Food and Drug Administration will begin enforcing the mandated food-safety activities and record-keeping requirements outlined in the law, passed by Congress in 2011. FSMA establishes regulatory practices that produce farmers, food processors and feed manufacturers must adopt to prevent contamination of fresh produce, and processed and manufactured human foods and animal feeds.

The act includes seven regulations, and current Penn State Extension resources focus on three that will significantly impact Pennsylvania's growers, distributors and processors: the Produce Safety Rule, the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule, and the Preventive Controls for Animal Feed Rule.

"These rules represent a new approach toward preventing foodborne illnesses," said Luke LaBorde, associate professor of food science in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. "Food and feed businesses are charged to take a preventative, instead of a reactive, approach. This means that growers and processors will be responsible for understanding potential risks in their operations and developing science-based measures to control those risks before a problem actually occurs."

Penn State Extension's food-safety educators are helping the food and feed industries interpret and implement the new FSMA regulations, with a dual goal of protecting consumer health and ensuring the success of the produce growers and food and feed businesses so essential to Pennsylvania's economy. Utilizing current food-safety research and science-based solutions for the prevention of microbial contamination, Penn State Extension offers a wide array of food-safety programs, which have trained thousands of produce growers, food processors and food-service workers. 

"Penn State can offer multidisciplinary expertise to meet the needs of the people we serve," said LaBorde. "With FSMA, we have statewide food science, horticultural and animal science educators who can provide information and solutions to help growers and processors adapt to the new regulations and facilitate the changes they need to make." 

Visitors to Penn State Extension's new Food Safety Modernization Act website, at http://extension.psu.edu/fsma, will find educational videos designed to help growers and processors understand the FSMA law, identify which rule(s) may affect their operations, and determine whether or not they might qualify for one of the rule exemptions that apply to certain smaller-sized growers or processors.

Website visitors can also use the site to identify and communicate with educators on the cross-disciplinary team of food safety experts, which Penn State Extension has assembled to serve the agricultural and food industries affected by FSMA. 

Penn State Extension is posting online news updates and articles about FSMA on the site, as well as other educational materials, such as flow charts, to lead produce growers, food processors, and animal feed manufacturers through the criteria that determine how FSMA rules may pertain to their operations. The FSMA website also includes listings and registration details for several upcoming workshops. New resources will be added to the site as they are developed to serve FSMA education needs.

Workshops are scheduled for 2017 that include official FSMA grower certification trainings and farm food-safety plan writing sessions. Three FSMA Produce Grower Certification trainings will be offered to Pennsylvania produce growers at a reduced rate, with support from the Pennsylvania Agricultural Resource Centers, a partnership between the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.

On Jan. 30, Penn State Extension will offer an official FSMA Produce Grower Certification Training session at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey, organized by the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association. FSMA Produce Grower Certifications also will be held in Butler County on Feb. 21 and in Bedford County on March 24.

Farm Food-Safety Plan Writing workshops for growers will be held in Lebanon County on Feb. 9, in Butler County on March 7, and in Bedford County on March 31, and complete event details will be posted on the FSMA website as they become available. Online registration is encouraged; alternatively, calls may be placed to 814-445-8911 to register during normal business hours. 

Penn State Extension also hosts Preventive Controls for Human Foods courses for food processors covered under the Preventive Controls Rule. One training specifically for dairy food processors is scheduled for Feb. 21-23 at University Park, and another course for all types of food processing will take place on March 21-23 in Malvern. Online registration is required for these workshops.

Additional FSMA training programs and details will be announced on the website as they are scheduled. Participants will be eligible to earn a completion certificate to satisfy related FSMA training requirements. Preregistration is required for all classes. 

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Last Updated December 21, 2016