CDFA To Hold Good Ag Neighbors Workshops

Workshop Designed for Produce Growers and Livestock Areas to Promote Food Safety

News Release

In order to facilitate dialogue between different sectors of California agriculture about cooperation to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is partnering with the University of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring the livestock and produce communities together for a series of workshops.

The workshops, titled Good Ag Neighbors, are designed for fruit and vegetable growers, livestock owners, and others interested in learning about how produce safety and livestock management practices can work jointly to promote food safety.

The workshops will be held in two California locations, with the first scheduled for June 11 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville. The second workshop is scheduled for June 13 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Robert J Cabral Ag Center in Stockton.

“Agriculture is complex,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. “This is particularly true in California, where diverse agricultural operations often exist side-by-side, with each of them required to comply with a myriad of regulations designed to protect the public, the environment, and the food supply.”

Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary
Karen Ross, CDFA Secretary

Diversity is extremely important to the fabric of California agriculture. Also important is open communication channels between diverse partners. This has become more apparent with the CDFA’s newly created Produce Safety Program, which is working on behalf of the U.S. FDA to enforce produce safety regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The workshops will address lessons learned from recent investigations of produce-related foodborne illness outbreaks, examine key research findings, and consider future research needs.

The workshops are being conducted by the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security and will include presentations by researchers and industry representatives. The day-long agenda will focus in the morning on reviewing regulations, laws, and practices already in place to protect food and environmental safety, while the afternoon will be spent in various breakout groups examining how these practices can be leveraged.

Participants should come prepared to share their experiences as well as their produce safety questions.

The workshops are offered free of charge. For more information and to register, please visit http://www.wifss.ucdavis.edu/good-ag-neighbors/.

Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month

In U.S., One-Third of all Available Food Goes Uneaten Through Loss or Waste. 

News Release Edited By Patrick Cavanaugh

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) kick off Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month by calling for greater collaboration with public, private, and nonprofit partners as well as state and local officials to educate and engage consumers and stakeholders throughout the supply chain on the need to reduce food loss and waste.

In the U.S., more than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste. Food is the single largest type of waste in our daily trash. In recent years, great strides have been made to highlight and mitigate food loss and waste, but the work has just begun. When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for economic growth, healthier communities, and environmental prosperity—but that can change through partnership, leadership, and action. Further elevating the importance of this issue, the recent announcement follows a Presidential Message from President Trump acknowledging the month of April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month and encouraging public action and participation from all sectors.

“Reducing food waste and redirecting excess food to people, animals, or energy production provide immediate benefits to public health and the environment. I am proud to join President Trump and my federal partners in recognizing April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “We are working closely with our federal partners and stakeholders across the nation to reduce the amount of food going to landfills and maximize the value of our food resources.”

“USDA alone cannot end food waste, it will require partners from across the supply chain working together on innovative solutions and consumer education. We need to feed our hungry world, and by reducing food waste, we can more wisely use the resources we have. I am pleased President Trump identified this issue as one of importance, and I look forward to USDA’s continued work with our agency partners at EPA and FDA to change behavior in the long term on food waste,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.

“With 1 in 6 people getting a foodborne illness every year in the U.S. and up to 40 percent of food left uneaten, it’s understandable why food safety and food waste are major societal concerns,” FDA Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said. “The FDA is working to strengthen its collaboration and coordination with the EPA and USDA to strategically align our federal efforts between the two issues to better educate Americans on how to reduce food waste and how it can be done safely.”

As part of the month’s observances, on April 9, EPA will host a live-streamed event with USDA and FDA. Additional joint agency actions will be announced at the event regarding the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. At the event, a panel of food waste stakeholders will share how state and local communities can join the federal government in reducing food waste and loss.

USDA, EPA, and FDA invite public and private partners to participate in Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month through the following:

  • Join the conversation: Share your efforts with the #NoWastedFood hashtag in your social media posts throughout the month.
  • Educate your community: Learn about USDA, EPA, and FDA programs and resources to reduce food loss and waste.
  • Be a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion: Join other corporate and business leaders who have made a public commitment to reducing food loss and waste in their U.S. operations by 50 percent by the year 2030.

The Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative is a collaborative effort among USDA, EPA, and FDA to reduce food loss and waste through combined and agency-specific action. Individually and collectively, these agencies contribute to the initiative, encourage long-term reductions, and work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the United States. These actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.

Curious of How Safe is Fresh Produce?

Residue Calculator Helps Public Understand How Safe Food Is

News Release

Recently, we have shared new government residue sampling results from the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR).  These programs consistently show that 99% of the foods sampled had no detectable residues at all or residues found were well below safety levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For those who do not want to review these lengthy government reports, the Alliance for Food and Farming (AFF) created an easy-to-use “residue calculator” on safefruitsandveggies.com, which is based upon the USDA data.  We asked toxicologists with the University of California Personal Chemical Exposure Program to analyze this data.  Their findings: A child could literally eat hundreds to thousands of servings of a fruit or veggie in a day and still not have any health effects from residues.  This analysis shows how very minute residues are, if present at all.

The residue calculator features 19 of the most popular fruits and veggies, and you can click on a man, woman, teenager, or child to see the number of servings one would have to consume.  For example, a child could eat 181 servings or 1,448 strawberries in a day and still not have any effects from residues.  Apples?  A child could eat 340 apples in a day.  Kale?  7,446 servings!

These government reports and the UC toxicological analysis underscore the diligence of fruit and vegetable farmers when it comes to the judicious use of pesticides approved for organic and conventional crops.

“… Growers and farmers are adept at following our comprehensive rules to ensure produce is grown to the highest pesticide standards,” said Brian Leahy, Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation.

“Based on the PDP data, consumers can feel confident about eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables,” concludes the USDA report.

Read, learn, choose but eat more organic or conventional fruits and veggies for better health and longer life.

CDPR: 96% of Produce has No Residue Or Far Below EPA Levels

CDPR Releases New Residue Results

News Release

Recently, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) released its 2017 Pesticide Residues in Fresh Produce report. During its 2017 survey, CDPR found 96 percent of all samples had no detectable pesticide residues or residues were below levels allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The CDPR report complements the recently released United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Pesticide Data Program results which found 99% percent of the foods sampled had no detectable residues or residues were well below EPA tolerances. The Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also conducts pesticide residue sampling.  FDA results mirrored the USDA’s.

The FDA, USDA and CDPR reports all concluded that these residue results should provide consumers with confidence about the safety of eating fruits and vegetables.

All three government reports garnered very little attention. However, this is reassuring food safety information that consumers should know. Instead, they often receive inaccurate assertions about residues carried by activist groups promoting one production method over another.

The Alliance for Food and Farming supports consumer choice by providing science-based facts to help them make the right shopping decisions for themselves and their families. Whether they choose organic or conventional produce, consumers should know that when it comes to residues, both production methods yield safe produce that can be eaten with confidence.


FDA Releases Possible Factors for 2018 E. Coli Outbreaks

Leafy Greens Industry and Public Were Severely Impacted

By Hank Giclas, Western Growers Sr. Vice President, Strategic Planning, Science & Technology

Recently, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration released an environmental assessment that provides an overview of factors that potentially contributed to the contamination of romaine lettuce with E. coli that was implicated in a 2018 multi-state foodborne illness outbreak. The assessment can be found here and includes the background on the outbreak; the environmental team approach; and factors potentially contributing to the introduction and spread of E. coli; along with recommendations for the prevention E. coli in leafy greens.

FDA recommends that growers and processors of leafy greens:

  • assure that all agricultural water (water that directly contacts the harvestable portion of the crop) used by growers is safe and adequate for its intended use (including agricultural water used for application of crop protection chemicals);
  • assess and mitigate risks related to land uses near or adjacent to growing fields that may contaminate agricultural water or leafy greens crops directly (e.g. nearby cattle operations or dairy farms, manure or composting facility);
  • verify that food safety procedures, policies, and practices, including supplier controls for fresh-cut processors, are developed and consistently implemented on farms (both domestic and foreign) and in fresh-cut produce manufacturing/processing food facilities to minimize the potential for contamination and/or spread of human pathogens;
  • when a foodborne pathogen is identified in the growing or processing environment, in agricultural inputs (e.g., agricultural water), in raw agricultural commodities or in fresh-cut, ready-to-eat produce, a root cause analysis should be performed to determine the likely source of the contamination, if prevention measures have failed, and whether additional measures are needed to prevent a reoccurrence; and
  • Local in-depth knowledge and actions are critical in helping resolve potential routes of contamination of leafy greens in the Yuma growing region, including Imperial County and Yuma County, moving forward. FDA urges other government and non-government entities, produce growers and trade associations in Yuma and Imperial Counties to further explore possible source(s) and route(s) of contamination associated with the outbreak pathogen and with other foodborne pathogens of public health significance. This information is critical to developing and implementing short- and long-term remediation measures to reduce the potential for another outbreak associated with leafy greens or other fresh produce commodities.

The findings in the Environmental Assessment appear to provide little new information but will be closely reviewed by Western Growers and others as part of our industry’s ongoing efforts to ensure food safety.

Immediately after the outbreak, Western Growers collaborated with the leafy greens industry to help lead a task force that would assess the source of the outbreak, as well as develop recommendations to prevent future outbreaks. While sources of contamination remain uncertain, the task force made concrete recommendations to industry for assuring water is safe and adequate, assessing and mitigating risk from adjacent land uses as well as others to address risks from equipment and climatic conditions.  These recommendations go well beyond the requirements of the FDA’s own Produce Safety Rule and have already been incorporated into the California and Arizona LGMA requirements. State auditors are now charged with verifying adherence to these new controls through announced and un-announced audits that occur throughout the seasons. The industry is furthering its efforts to learn more including through research guided by respected entities such as the Center for Produce Safety and working directly with California and Arizona academic teams. There is a strong and broad commitment to continually work to improve our food safety system.

Other related information posted by FDA includes:

Industry Serious About Produce Safety Rule

CDFA Announces New Produce Safety Program

By Scott Horsfall, CEO of Leafy Green Marketing Agreement

Reprinted from the LGMA Website

CDFA announced recently the creation of a new unit within its Inspection Services Division which will be responsible for educating California produce farmers about new Produce Safety Rule regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act and for conducting routine on-farm inspections of California produce farms to verify they are in compliance.

Scott Horsfall

According to a CDFA press release, this new unit, called the Produce Safety Program, will spend 2018 educating California’s produce industry about the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule. On-farm inspections will not take place until 2019. At that time, the Produce Safety Program will begin conducting inspections of California produce farms on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Produce Safety Program inspectors are employees of CDFA, but are credentialed by the FDA and thus have special training and education. The CDFA is working collaboratively with FDA to implement Produce Safety Rule regulations, as are State Departments of Agriculture throughout the country.

The new requirements of the Produce Safety Rule became mandatory throughout the nation on January 26th for farms designated as “large” which means they have $500,000 or more in annual sales. Most farms who grow leafy greens under the LGMA would be characterized as large under this definition. Smaller farms will be phased in over the next few years. In total, it’s estimated there are some 20,000 fruit, vegetable and nut farms in California that will fall under the Produce Safety Rule.

CDFA emphasizes it will be a big job and has stated it will need to work closely with the California produce industry to achieve its goal of 100% compliance with the Produce Safety Rule on California Farms.

The LGMA has been working closely with both the U.S. FDA and CDFA to ensure our food safety program works in conjunction with efforts to enforce the Produce Safety Rule.

Last August, the LGMA Board approved revised metrics so that our required food safety practices are in full compliance with the Produce Safety Rule. We have since received confirmation from FDA that these revised metrics do indeed align with the requirements of the new regulations. In many cases, the LGMA metrics continue to go beyond what is required by FDA. Working from the revised metrics, CDFA will begin using an updated audit checklist that is Produce Safety Rule-compliant checklist for all LGMA government audits beginning April 1.

Because of these actions, CDFA has informed us that California farms who grow leafy greens for certified LGMA members will be considered compliant with the Produce Safety Rule.

More details will be coming as we get closer to April 1, when the LGMA’s new compliance year begins. In the meantime, we want LGMA members to know that FDA will be able to validate compliance with the Produce Safety Rule on farms who grow your leafy greens without the need for additional and duplicative inspections when Produce Safety Program begins inspecting farms in 2019. CDFA has recognized the efforts of the LGMA to establish a culture of food safety on the farm and they acknowledge that mandatory government audits are already taking place on California leafy greens farms who operate under the LGMA.

As a reminder, under the LGMA program, every handler-member continues to be audited by the government an average of five times over the course of the year—with one unannounced audit—and every farmer is audited at least once per year.

This recognition by government agencies at FDA and CDFA is welcome news to the LGMA, our members and produce buyers. The LGMA is pleased to see the addition of this new unit at CDFA to provide government inspections throughout California’s produce industry. And we look forward to additional oversight provided by the Produce Safety Program to further validate that leafy greens are being farmed safely.

FDA Update on Food Safety

FDA Announces Competitive Grant Program with NIFA to Fund Food Safety Training, Education and Technical Assistance

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced that it has joined with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in a collaborative partnership to administer and manage the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program.

Recognizing the importance of and need for food safety training for small farm owners and food processors, the FDA and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) are announcing a grant program that will provide funding so that these critical groups receive training, education and technical assistance consistent with standards being established under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This is one of several education and outreach efforts associated with the implementation of FSMA.

Priority will be given to those submitting grant applications to train owners and operators of small and medium-size farms; farmers just starting out in business; socially disadvantaged farmers; small food processors; small fruit and vegetable wholesalers; and farms that lack access to food safety training and other educational opportunities. A Federal, State, or local agency, State cooperative extension services, non-profit community based or non-governmental organizations, institutions of higher education, tribes and tribal stakeholders or a collaboration of two of more eligible entities are among the entities eligible for funding.

Education and technical assistance projects are an essential element in the FSMA implementation strategy. Such efforts will help ensure widespread voluntary compliance by encouraging greater understanding and adoption of established food safety standards, guidance, and protocols. They also facilitate the integration of these standards and guidance with a variety of agricultural production systems, encompassing conventional, sustainable, organic, and conservation and environmental practices.

Meeting the technical assistance needs for produce safety will require an investment well beyond what is being announcing today. This grant program underscores the commitment of both agencies to working with the grower community, Cooperative Extension Services (a nationwide education network), our state and tribal government partners, and institutions of higher education to more fully define the need and strategies for meeting it.

FDA is first issuing a request for applications for the establishment of a National Coordination Center (NCC) for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program. Once funding is available, separate requests for applications for the establishment of Regional Centers will be forthcoming.

 

This Request for Application can be found at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-FD-15-003.html

More information on the NIFA can be found at: http://www.nifa.usda.gov

You can find additional information on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act at: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm

For more information on FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act, visit http://www.fda.gov/fsma.

 

Why Almonds Belong in Your Diet

Almond Nutrition

Source: Alissa Fleck, Demand Media

Natural, unsalted almonds are a tasty and nutritious snack with plenty of health benefits. Loaded with minerals, they are also among the healthiest of tree nuts. Just a handful of nutrient-rich almonds a day helps promote heart health and prevent weight gain, and it may even help fight diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Nutrition

Eating about 23 almonds a day is an easy way to incorporate many crucial nutrients into your diet. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, minerals and potassium. Additionally, almonds are a significant source of protein and fiber, while being naturally low in sugar. One 23-almond serving packs 13 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, 1 gram of saturated fat and no cholesterol or salt. Of all tree nuts, almonds rank highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin content by weight. There are 160 calories in 23 almonds. While many of these calories come from fat, it is primarily the healthy unsaturated fats and not the unhealthy saturated kind.

Almond Hull-split
Almond Hull-split

Heart Health

According to the FDA, eating 1.5 ounces a day of most nuts, like almonds, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of the nutrients in almonds help contribute to increased heart health. For one, almonds are rich in magnesium, which is critical in preventing heart attacks and hypertension. Several clinical studies have also shown almonds can be effective in reducing bad cholesterol and preserving healthy cholesterol, which plays a major role in heart health.

Weight Maintenance

Nuts, like almonds, are also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. The fiber, protein and fat content of almonds means it only takes a handful to keep you feeling full and satisfied so you won’t have the urge to overeat. According to “Fitness” magazine, the magnesium in almonds helps regulate blood sugar, which is key in reducing food cravings. Almonds may even be able to block the body’s absorption of calories, making them the ultimate weight-loss-friendly snack. Because almonds are naturally high in calories, it’s important to limit your serving size to the recommended 1 ounce, or 23 nuts.

Other Health Benefits

Almonds may also promote gastrointestinal health and even combat diabetes. The high fiber content of almonds gives them prebiotic properties, which contributes to health in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible food substances, which serve as food for the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and help maintain a healthy balance. According to a study by the American Diabetes Association, a Mediterranean diet incorporating nuts, such as almonds, helps fight diabetes even without significant changes to weight, physical activity or caloric intake.

Apple Commission Joins Listeria Outbreak Investigation in Caramel Apples

California Victim Represents the First Wrongful Death Suit in this Listeria Outbreak

 

By Laurie Greene, CalAgToday reporter and editor

On December 19, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it is collaborating with several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in an investigation of the outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infection (listeriosis) in commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.
The first wrongful death lawsuit was filed in California by James Raymond Frey on behalf of his late wife, Shirlee Jean Frey, 81, against Safeway Inc. over the commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, implicated in a 10-state Listeria outbreak responsible for a total of 29 people (as of yesterday) who have been hospitalized, including five deaths.
Though the product in question was linked to Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, specifically, CDC is warning the public not to eat caramel apples–plain or with nuts or other toppings, but clarified, “at this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.” Safeway removed the product from it shelves.
The investigation is still working to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to the illnesses.
Listeria is one of the more deadly food pathogens. The most recent Listeria outbreak occurred three years ago from Colorado-grown contaminated cantaloupes, causing three dozen deaths. The pathogen  affects primarily women, newborns, older adults and other people with compromised immune systems. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal problems.
The California Apple Commission is working with other apple producing states and the U.S. Apple Association on this issue.  Should California apple growers receive any calls regarding this issue or need additional information, please contact Alexander Ott, Executive Director the Commission office in Fresno by email at calapple@calapple.org or phone 1-559-225-3000.
Photo source: CDC

WAPA Webinar on Revisions to Proposed FSMA Rule

The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) will be hosting a very special webinar on Thursday, November 13, covering the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed changes to the Produce Rule and Preventive Controls Regulation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). 

Jennifer McEntire of The Acheson Group will be providing the update.  Find out how the FDA is proposing to handle hullers and what the requirements will be under these revisions.  This free webinar is an absolute must for all huller and processor members.

For more information about WAPA, click on the link http://www.agprocessors.org. Register here for the webinar.
webinar

The Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) represents facilities involved in the processing of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Regular WAPA memberships are limited to almond hullers or processors, pecan and pistachio processors, and walnut dehydrators and processors. Associate memberships include any individual or business entity which is not engaged in agricultural processing, but which provides products or services directly related to the agricultural processing industry, such as commodity brokers, accounting firms, and insurance brokers.

Featured photo: WAPA