Improving Food Safety

Government, Academia and Farmers Join Forces to Improve Food Safety

By  April Ward, LGMA Director of Marketing and Communication

On November 19, 2020 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the launch of a longitudinal study in partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), University of California Davis, Western Center for Food Safety (WCFS) and agricultural stakeholders in the Central Coast of California.

In recent years several E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks have been linked to lettuce. In an effort to find the cause of these outbreaks and arm farmers with a way to prevent them, this multi-year project will examine how pathogens survive and move through the environment and possibly contaminate produce. FDA will work closely with water quality, food safety, and agricultural experts, representatives from various agriculture industries, and members of the leafy greens industry.

As a part of the project, research teams will aim to determine potential sources of contamination by collecting and examining samples from the environment including adjacent lands, well and surface waters, soil inputs that include compost, dust and animal fecal samples.


The findings from this study will contribute new knowledge on how various environmental factors may influence bacterial persistence and distribution in this region, and how those factors may impact the risk of leafy greens becoming contaminated. Results from this collaboration will lead to improved practices to prevent or mitigate food safety risks, and ultimately enhance the safety of leafy greens grown in California.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross:

California leads the world in leafy greens production and innovation. Industry and food safety officials are proud to partner on this in-depth scientific study protecting public health.

Dan Sutton, Chairman of the California LGMA and General Manager of Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange:

The California LGMA completely supports this joint effort spearheaded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. LGMA members are committed to safe leafy greens and look forward to any findings that will help to make our crops safer for consumers. We are pleased to see wide participation from industry, academia and regulators. All of these stakeholders bring different strengths to the project and share a common goal of improving food safety for lettuce and leafy greens.

A similar study is being conducted in the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

Produce Rule is Now Mandatory

Produce Rule Now In Effect

By Sonia Salas, Western Growers, Director of Science and Technology

It’s official: Since January 26, domestic and international produce farms designated as “large” (those with annual sales greater than $500,000) are expected to comply with most provisions of the Produce Safety Rule, a federal law created under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Smaller farms will be phased in over the next few years.

The Produce Safety Rule is mandatory throughout the United States and applies to both domestic and imported produce. Any produce farm found to be out of compliance may be subject to regulatory action. The State Departments of Agriculture play a key role in education, outreach and enforcement activities.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recently announced that it will be launching a new Produce Safety Program, which will operate as part of its Inspection Services Division. This program has been created specifically to conduct on-farm inspections on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and will be used to verify compliance with the Produce Safety Rule.

Additionally, the program will distribute educational information designed to assist California produce farms in understanding the requirements and how to comply with the rule. More information about CDFA activities can be found in their Produce Safety Rule Fact Sheet. The Colorado and Arizona Departments of Agriculture are likewise taking the lead to enforce this rule and educate growers in their respective states.

The focus in 2018 is on education and on-farm readiness. While on-farm inspections are not likely until 2019, Western Growers encourages members to meet compliance deadlines and has developed resources to help members get ready, including an implementation guide and self-audit checklist, available on our FSMA Portal.

Below is a list of Western Growers’ resources and upcoming training to help growers with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule:

FSMA Portal: Click here to access the portal.

Produce Safety Rule Resources Portal (a full Implementation Guide with audit checklist will be available for download tomorrow): Click here to access the portal.

Webinar on February 26: Are you FSMA Compliant?: Click here to register.

Industry Workshops: Click here to view dates and register.

Expert Talks Protecting Our Food Supply And Industry

Maintaining Food Safety – Part 2

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Continuing our series on food safety in the state of California, we spoke with Jon Kimble, Operations Business Development Manager at Safe Food Alliance, and he explained the need for worker awareness when it comes to protecting our food supply.

“Too often, we see these recalls on foods where people are getting ill. Many times, it gets tracked back to an employee. Somebody’s got a virus, somebody’s got a bacteria, they’re sick,” Kimble said. “They come in contact with the food while they’re ill, and that translates back to getting out in the food supply and making people sick.”

“That’s what we’re trying to minimize. In a practical sense, in cases where we’ve observed people getting sick from things, we track that back, see what the source is, and try and share that information with everybody so that they can minimize that from happening in the future,” Kimble explained.

There are economic implications to consider as well.

“It is really paramount to prevent not only economic damage to your own farm and your own business, but also an entire industry,” Kimble said. “We see [that] one bad apple affects the whole industry.”

“We’ve even seen situations, such as a few years ago ,where there were some contaminated peppers, but they suspected tomatoes initially. It impacted an entire year’s harvest of tomatoes,” Kimble said. “We want to minimize the damage to the industry, and how people protect their businesses legally, by doing the right thing.”

Buyers are also setting a higher standard of quality, in light of the new rule.

“The regulation does set a minimum requirement, but buyers, customers, purchasers are setting a higher standard,” Kimble said.

“We’re seeing that trickle down effect as a result of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), that even folks who aren’t necessarily required to do certain things in their operation are being asked by their customers to do above and beyond what the regulation requires, and even in advance of their compliance dates for the regulation.”

“We’ve seen it both on the processing side and on the growing side, that customers are starting to raise their expectations for growers,” he said.

This is Part 2 of a 3 Part Series.

FSMA Produce Rule – Part 1

Mandatory Training Under Way

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Jon Kimble, the operations business development manager at Safe Food Alliance in Sacramento, spoke to California Ag Today recently about the Produce Rule of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

“The new produce safety rule that FDA has released under FSMA is a rule for growers,” he said. “For part of that rule, certain trainings are required, and the training that we’re conducting has been approved by the FDA. It’s been developed by the Produce Safety Alliance, and meets those requirements that they want to have a supervisor or somebody involved in the operation trained according to this training or equivalent to it.”

“We’re very excited, in that we are working with the California Farm Bureau Federation on many of these trainings. We’re looking forward to working with growers and helping them understand what the regulations say and some practical ways to apply the regulations within their operation,” Kimble said.

Kimble explained that the mandatory training covers every aspect of the operation. “Things that you’re doing before planting, during harvest, and even afterward when the produce is being handled in packing houses,” he said.

The training entails topics such as worker hygiene, water control, soil amendments – the whole gamut of the operation.

“The focus is minimizing potential contamination. We all understand that a farm is not sterile,” Kimble said. “We also understand there are potential sources of contamination that need to be minimize. That’s the focus: minimizing contamination – and the main primary emphasis is really on microbial or biological hazards.”

“Of course, there are chemical and physical hazards, but FSMA is focused on microbiological, including bacteria, viruses and parasites,” he said.

This is Part One of a Three Part Series on Maintaining Food Safety



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 Register here for the 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