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/.

Paul Wenger: We Must Take Advantage of Signal to D.C.

California Farm Bureau Federation says Republican President, House and Senate are good news for California Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

At the recent 98th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF) there was definitely a positive buzz in the air regarding the recent election.

Walnut and almond grower and CFBF President Paul Wenger said agriculture should take quick advantage of what is an unexpected trifecta.

president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
Paul Wenger

“During the Bush administration, the Republicans controlled the house and the Senate and also the White House, and we didn’t quite get done the things that we want to get done, but I think there was a signal sent in this last election,” Wenger said.  “It surprised everybody. It surprised the Republicans, the Democrats, the Independents – everybody. The establishment. The non-establishment.”

Wenger said the industry has an opportunity to work with the incoming Trump Administration to actually get some things done. “I think the voters sent a very clear signal. We don’t want business as usual. We want to see things get done. People need jobs. People need to be able to not be held down by all this regulatory morasses out there, and so I think in the first 100 days and definitely within the first 14 months, it will make or break this administration,” Wenger said.

“We need to work together. We need to get moderate Democrats with the Republicans. We cannot allow … divisions within the Republican party. We’re lucky to have California Congressman and House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy in a very influential position,” Wenger said. “We have a great list of congressmen around the state – not only in the Republican but the Democrat side – to work together. So let’s solve some problems.”

Wenger noted that agriculture needs relief from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I think one of the things that the Trump Administration wants to do through the Interior and the EPA is to get some relaxation or some equity in the Endangered Species Act,” Wenger said.

“The Endangered Species Act was put in under a Republican administration, but nobody thought it would be carried out to the extreme that it is. It’s a very immovable object. Let’s get some flexibility in this that gives mankind the same equal footing that we have for other species because we’re dependent upon that water,” Wenger said.  “We can have a healthy environment and a healthy economy and produce food, but so far, those doors have been slammed shut, and it’s only one way, and that’s the species way.”

The Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is another issue. “We’re going to have to work with the Trump Administration. He came out during the campaign, said he was against it. He said he was against NAFTA. We need these trade agreements,” Wenger said. “He said he was going to put up a wall, but the other day he said in that wall there’s going to be doors, so if we can work with this Trump Administration and make sure that we have an available legal workforce, that’s great, but Waters of the US (WOTUS) is dead in the first few days of his administration,” Wenger said. “This will be good for all farmers and ranchers across the country.”

WOTUS is a rule that was a 2015 ruling by EPA as part of the Clean Water Act, which says that the EPA as expanded agency over bodies of water and even low areas of ag land where water can settle. It has been met with lawsuits form many states, and major pushback by agriculture.

Wenger said that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may also get another look.  “We think there’s a good potential that they’ll take another look at and make it more practical rather than this onerous rule that everybody’s trying to figure out,” Wenger said.  “Also, we think the estate tax is something that he’ll take a look at.”

“We’re excited to work with a new administration, see what we can forge in the first 100 days for sure, and at least in the first 14 months so that not only do we have a trifecta for the first two years of his administration, but the last two years too,” Wenger said.

 

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

 

Bio Illumination Technology is Targeting Listeria Now and Poised to Take on E. Coli and Salmonella

Source: Laurel Maloy, contributing author, Food Online

Currently, the only way to diagnose Listeria is to grow cellular cultures, a time-consuming, cumbersome, and expensive process. The testing procedure requires the collection of random samples from the food, as well as from food contact surfaces. In the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) guidelines, the list of possible food contact surfaces is extensive.

FSIS also does not personally collect these samples, but relies on the farms and facilities to collect these random samples and forward them for testing.

In the event of illness or death, the hunt begins for the Listeria-contaminated food, a tracking process that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is designed to improve upon.

The fact, however, remains; this testing is done after the fact. Illness or death was the precursor for the processor. But, what if there was a quick, efficient process by which Listeria could be identified before it ever reached the consumer?

According to Sample6, a Boston-based company, its Bio Illumination Platform is the answer. Professor Tim Lu and Dr. Michael Koeris, the developers of this pathogen diagnostic system, say it can detect a single cell in just a few hours.

The innovative process utilizes bacteriophages, or phages, to inject pathogenic bacteria with an enzyme. The enzyme, when introduced to pathogenic bacteria, reprograms it to illuminate intensely, even when only a small sampling of cells is present.

The current assay is for Listeria detection only, though Lu has stated it can easily be modified for targeting other pathogens. The bacteriophage for Listeria will not, for example, attack E. coli, and can discriminate between pathogenic bacteria and the possible multitudes of harmless bacteria in the same sample. Lu says, “Phages are the most abundant biological particle on Earth. Since they have coevolved with bacteria for eons, nature provides a rich database of phages which target desired bacteria. Thus, by sourcing from nature, we can adapt the platform to other pathogens and applications.”

The process is almost ridiculously easy. Workers swab the food and then use a specialized machine to detect any light coming from the sample. Easy and quick, this test can be done in the field, in the plant, or in the warehouse, preventing contaminated food from making its way to consumers’ tables.

For the past six months several of Sample6’s clients have been field-testing the Bio Illumination Platform. Upon its certification, this technology will be available to all food processors, eventually being expanded to include assays for the detection of E. coli and Salmonella.

Webinar to Examine Environmental Impact of Produce Safety Proposed Rule

Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it will hold a webinar on April 4 to discuss the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the agency’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) proposed rule to establish standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce for human consumption.

The FDA is holding this meeting to seek public input on the issues and alternatives that it should consider when preparing the EIS and to inform the public of the provisions of the proposed rule that may significantly affect the quality of the human environment and anticipated alternatives FDA plans to consider.

In an update received earlier today, FDA noted that it is “identifying a number of issues and a range of potential alternatives to be considered in the EIS.”

Alternatives have been identified in areas where potential environmental impacts are likely, including the following:

  1. Microbial standard for agricultural water used during growing activities for covered produce using a direct water application method
  2. Minimum application intervals for biological soil amendments of animal origin
  3. Measures related to animal grazing and animal intrusion
  4. Scope of proposed rule and implications to land use and land management.

The meeting will be from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Harvey W. Wiley Federal Building in College Park, Maryland. The meeting will also be Webcast at 2 p.m. For more details on how to participate in person or online, visit the FDA website.

PMA members and industry are also encouraged to visit the FSMA Resource Center for additional information on the FSMA and its numerous proposed rules.