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Posts Tagged: Food Safety

Get required produce safety training from UC

The food production environment introduces many potential points of contamination risk from the soil to the table. Consumer demand for food safety practices along with new government regulations for fresh produce have raised grower awareness of the need for best practices to reduce microbial risks during the production and processing of nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Produce Safety Courses Available in Northern California

Produce safety training courses offered through the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) are informing the farming community about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) to reduce microbial risks and meet Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) training requirements. The FSMA Produce Safety Rule requires vegetable, nut, and fruit growers, to have at least one supervisor or responsible party on the produce farm who has successfully completed food safety training. The training courses are offered in English and Spanish and run through June 2019.

Donna Pahl, UCCE, dons a poop emoji hat during table top exercise emphasizing the need for pre-harvest inspection of animal feces.

What to expect

The Produce Safety Alliance team at Cornell University developed the curriculum for the PSA Grower Training Courses working together with many growers, researchers, extension educators, produce industry members, and state and federal regulatory personnel.

Trainers, such as lead trainer David Goldenberg, food safety and security training coordinator at WIFSS, provide approximately seven hours of instruction time, which includes table top exercises and question and discussion time.

Topics include:

  • An introduction to produce safety
  • Worker health, hygiene, and training
  • Soil amendments
  • Wildlife, domesticated animals and land use
  • Agricultural water, production water and post-harvest water
  • Post harvest handling and sanitation, and how to develop a farm food safety plan
Goldenberg (back row 3rd from left), Gazula (front row green sweater), Cromwell (front row far right), and Pahl (front row 2nd from left), pose for photo with participants from the opening PSA Grower Traiing course in Davis

Training underway

The Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training courses, underway since January of 2019, have been attended by vegetable, nut, and fruit growers from Butte County to Monterey County. David Goldenberg along with Aparna Gazula, farm advisor for small farms and specialty crops, with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension in Santa Clara County, conducted the first WIFSS training class. Assisting in the training with Goldenberg and Gazula were Avery Cromwell with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Donna Pahl, Cornell University, Produce Safety Alliance Extension Associate, with the Southwest Region, Riverside.

Dr. Russell talks to farming community in Oroville about GAPs.
Dr. Michele Jay-Russell, research microbiologist and manager for the Western Center for Food Safety and Liaison to WIFSS, joined Goldenberg in Oroville in March, where they presented an interactive demonstration of wildlife fecal contamination risk and mitigation at the Butte County Farm Bureau.

Benefits from attending the course

Course participants will be eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) that verifies training course completion. To receive the certificate, you need to be present for the entire one-day course and submit the paperwork to your trainer at the end of the course.

Costs to attend

Sign up now for training courses to obtain a certificate of completion for the mandatory training to comply with the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. This is a chance to learn about foodborne illness and its impacts to the produce industry and consumers, different types of foodborne illness organisms, why prevention of contamination is critical to produce safety, how to conduct basic risk assessment, and steps involved in monitoring, record keeping, and corrective actions. CDFA, through a contract with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is subsidizing the cost of the training. A $30 cost per registrant will be charged to provide a lunch, beverages and the course manual and certificate completion.

Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 9:33 AM
Tags: food safety (40)
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture

On Super Bowl Sunday, don't drop the ball on food safety

Food safety danger zone: Bacteria grow rapidly Between 40 degrees and 140 degrees.

At Super Bowl parties, dropped passes and missed tackles should be the only things making football fans' stomachs churn. Leaving food out for more than two hours can be hazardous to your health and that of your guests, cautions a UC Cooperative Extension nutrition expert.

You may be thinking, “I've eaten food that sat out longer than two hours and not thrown up.” Consider yourself lucky.

“We keep learning more about foodborne illness,” says Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor in San Diego County. “We probably did get sick, but we thought it was something else, like the 24-hour flu.”

She added that kids, diabetics, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.

For Super Bowl Sunday and throughout the year, Wooten Swanson offers these food safety tips:

  • Thaw turkey or meat in the refrigerator.
  • Don't wash raw meat or poultry in the sink before cooking.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine when meat or poultry is done.
  • Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
  • On the fourth day, throw leftovers away.
Guacamole and salsa shouldn't be left out for longer than 2 hours.

Thawing foods correctly and storing them at the right temperatures is important, said Wooten Swanson.

“Bacteria grow very rapidly,” she said. “From 40 degrees to 140 degrees is what we call the danger zone. We encourage you to get food out of that temperature range as soon as possible. Don't let food sit on the table after you finish eating and go to watch TV.”

She also recommends not leaving food out the length of the game.

“Chips are fine to leave out,” Wooten Swanson said, “But put the salsa and guacamole in small containers, then put out new bowls at halftime. Take away the original containers to wash or discard. You don't want to refill a bowl that has been out for 2 hours.”

Posted on Sunday, February 4, 2018 at 12:02 PM
Tags: Food Safety (40)
Focus Area Tags: Food Health

Produce safety training ensuring continued enjoyment of specialty crops

Oakleaf, Mizuna, Red Rib Chicory, Lollo Rosa, and Lamb's Lettuce, are the names of a few of the leafy vegetables which graced my salad plate. The thinly sliced fresh red onion, juicy pomegranate kernels, and fresh citrus dressing added to the delectable ensemble. I, as well as so many other California diners, have grown accustomed to the taste-bud sensations that await us in this day of the farm-to-fork movement.

As I inhaled my salad, I couldn't help but think of the recent E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that affected at least 24 people in the U.S. and more than 40 in Canada. Originally it was blamed on Romaine lettuce, but early in January the CDC said in a statement that the likely source of the outbreak in the United States appears to be leafy greens. However, officials have not identified a specific type of leafy green or specifically where it originated.

A 2013 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control revealed that 46 percent of all foodborne illnesses that led to hospitalization or death between 1998 and 2008 were attributable to fresh produce. The report brought to the consumers' attention that, while fresh fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of a healthy diet, when improperly handled, they can be fatal.

In spite of these sobering statistics I feel confident to continue my consumption of raw produce, in part because of the knowledge of such things as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administered by CDFA to create and deliver educational materials for growers to assist in conducting agricultural water sampling and environmental assessments. The grant is part of an effort to help growers meet the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR) standards for safe foods.

Ronald F. Bond collecting samples in the Salinas Valley. (Photo: M. L. Partyka)

Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS) and UC Agricultural and Natural Resource (ANR) personnel - including pathologist Bennie Osburn, UC Cooperative Extension specialist Alda Pires, UCCE specialist Erin DiCaprio, and WIFFS staff Heather Johnson and Ronald Bond - are developing a guide for California's mid- and small- farm specialty crop growers to meet the requirements of the PSR. Training materials, including online and face-to-face field exercises, will be developed for extension specialists and farm advisors. To facilitate the learning experience, there will be online information in multiple languages including Spanish, Hmong, Mandarin and English to meet the diverse needs of California specialty crop growers. The final step in the process will be to deliver the course materials in seven outreach workshops in those regions of California where mid- and small-sized growers are located.

With UC Davis and UC ANR working together to support California specialty crop growers as they work to meet the new compliance standards of the FSMA PSR, we can long enjoy the abundant, fresh leafy green produce produced in California's fertile valleys.

Posted on Friday, January 26, 2018 at 9:23 AM
Tags: Food Safety (40)
Focus Area Tags: Food

Enjoy your tree nuts: UC scientists help with regulatory compliance

California tree nut growers will soon have to comply with new agriculture water testing requirements under the Produce Safety Rule in the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). University of California researchers and advisors are holding seminars to share information about the agricultural water requirements and proper water sampling methods in order to be in compliance with the regulations.

While irrigation or spray water is generally not the source of contamination, it is a vehicle for pathogens that are harmful to humans, especially on produce that is consumed raw; therefore, agricultural water was included as a part of the new regulation.

The UC Cooperative Extension office in Yolo County was the site of the first information sessions for nut tree growers/producers. It was an ideal location, as the fertile soils of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys are home to the largest tree nut production industries in the U.S. Some nuts are also grown in the coastal valley regions and Sierra foothills.

Almond kernel emerging from dried hull. (Photo: Melissa L. Partyka)

Good news for nut consumers

The new regulations and the focus on food safety practices, particularly within the nut tree industry, is of great interest because of the popularity of nutritious and delicious tree nuts. I for one am a big consumer. My day starts with almond butter on toast. That's followed by snacks of raw walnuts and dates. And there's always the handful of roasted pistachios to be grabbed for a salty treat.

It is lucky for someone who is nuts about nuts to live in California. The state is the nation's No. 1 walnut, almond and pistachio producer. California produces 80 percent of the world's almonds. We produce one million tons of almonds each year, followed by walnuts at nearly half a million tons, and pistachios at over a quarter million tons.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture reports the state's leading agricultural export products by value in 2015 were almonds ($5.14 billion), dairy products ($1.63 billion), walnuts ($1.49 billion), wine ($1.48 billion), and pistachios ($848 million).

Almond harvesting in California's Central Valley. (Photo: Melissa L. Partyka)

Melissa L. Partyka, an ecologist at the UC Davis Western Institute for Food Safety and Security, (WIFSS) and Ronald F. Bond, a water quality researcher and field coordinator with WIFSS, are engaging local growers on issues of food safety and helping to educate them on not only the regulations but on ways to improve their water quality.

Partyka and Bond are staff in the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources' Vet Med Extension and Atwill Water and Foodborne Zoonotic Disease Laboratory, headed by UC Cooperative Extension specialist Rob Atwill, director of WIFSS.

They are affiliated with the Western Center for Food Safety, a Food and Drug Administration Center of Excellence, and are helping break down the regulations for the growers, regulations which can be a little overwhelming to the untrained.

Agricultural water, according to FSMA, is that water used to irrigate, treat, harvest, wash commodity or equipment on farm.

Growers are required to test water if it:

  • Comes in contact with the harvestable portion of the commodity
  • Is used to clean harvest equipment
  • Is used to mix pesticides/fungicides applied to commodity
  • Is used by harvest crews to wash hands

As of January 2016 growers will have 2 to 4 years (depending on farm size) to comply with most aspects of the Produce Safety Rule. Basically, the larger the production, the higher potential for risk to the consumer. How often a grower samples water depends on the water source. Well water requires an initial four samples, followed by one sample per year. Surface water, requires an initial 20 samples, followed by five samples per year. Water samples should be collected as close to harvest as is practical. During a long harvest season, samples can be spread out; in short harvest seasons, samples should be collected closer together; and in multiple harvest seasons, samples should be taken near each harvest if water is coming from the same source.

A full day workshop to be hosted by UC Cooperative Extension is planned for late June. Look for announcement of date, time, and location on the following websites: www.wcfs.ucdavis.edu, http://ucanr.edu, www.wifss.ucdavis.edu.

Posted on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 at 8:10 PM
Tags: food safety (40), FSMA (2), tree nuts (1)

Building trust in food systems – here and in Cambodia

What is the role of trust in our food system? Here in the United States, our trust in food is often implicit. We can generally trust that the fruits and vegetables we buy at a grocery store or farmers market are safe to eat — and we are often free to shop without even thinking about that trust.

Between farmers and agricultural scientists too, trust often plays an important role. If you're a farmer, you need to be able to trust that investing your time or money in a new technique or in attending a workshop will indeed improve your business.

But it can be easy to forget that trust is a critical first step in many of these agricultural relationships.

Thort Chuong (now a Fulbright scholar and UC Davis grad student) welcomes us into a nethouse in Cambodia, owned by a farmer who tried it after joining a savings group and hearing about this new way he could grow vegetables without spraying pesticides. Karen LeGrand of UC Davis stands inside, among the leafy green seedlings in the nethouse.

Establishing trust between actors in a food system has been critical for a Horticulture Innovation Lab project in Cambodia, focused on increasing the amount of safe vegetables available to Cambodian consumers.  Project leaders from UC Davis and UC ANR — Glenn YoungJim Hill, Cary Trexler, David Miller and Karen LeGrand — are actually traveling right now in Cambodia to launch a new phase of this project. They are partnering with scientists from Cambodia's Royal University of Agriculture and the University of Battambang. The researchers plan to expand upon their past successes, working together with farmers, marketers, and input suppliers to build trust while building safe vegetable value chains.

One key to their past success was that before introducing farmers to new agricultural technologies, the researchers first connected with farmers socially, by starting community savings groups. In these savings groups, farmers could build relationships and trust, while increasing their own savings and accessing small loans.

This social aspect of the project was the focus of a video made by UC Davis graduate students Thort Chuong, Elyssa Lewis, and Katie Hoeberling. This 3-minute video was a finalist in the World Food Day Video Challenge:

Building trust and resilience in a safe vegetable value chain in Cambodia Interviews for the video were conducted as part of a student thesis and supported by the U.S. Borlaug Graduate Research Fellowship program. 


Though he is now studying at UC Davis as a Fulbright Fellow, Chuong was originally hired to work with farmers on the first phase of this project in Kandal province as an agronomist and field facilitator.

“At first I just wanted to focus on the agronomy part,” he said. “But then I saw the advantages of being a [savings group] member and thought, wow, this is a great thing to do.”

In fact the advantages were so great that on the weekends he returned to his hometown, gathering his neighbors and relatives together to start their own savings groups. Members have a safe way to save money, an easier way to secure small loans, and earn a little interest too.

Farmers in these savings groups were able to save considerable amounts of money and provide loans to each other for things like seeds, field preparation, labor costs, school fees, wedding costs, even in one case a new house — with each member contributing $5-25 per week for a year.

With trust and community established, some of the farmers in the savings groups also decided to try out a new agricultural technology in partnership with the scientists, using nethouses for pest management to avoid spraying pesticides. (In many countries where pesticide information is inaccessible to the average farmer, it is not uncommon for farmers to keep a separate garden to feed their family — in order to avoid eating even their own crops that they are selling to the market.)

The new, safe vegetable value chain they were part of grew and strengthened, as the international team connected these farmers to a marketer who needed to source vegetables grown without pesticides. That marketer then sells those vegetables to consumers in the capital city of Phnom Penh, who were able to trust the vegetables they bought from her are indeed safe to eat.

The Horticulture Innovation Lab is led by a team at UC Davis, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, as part of the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future. Learn more about Horticulture Innovation Lab researchers and their projects in Asia, Africa and Central America.

Savings group members count out Cambodian riel, during an annual ceremony where members are repaid their share of funds (their own savings plus interest), after repaying all of their community loans. After the Horticulture Innovation Lab research was complete in their community, these farmers have continued to expand both their savings groups and their use of new agricultural technologies.

 

As the savings group secretary, Nov Keo tallies up the year's total savings, loans, and interest during the end-of-year ceremony. He was also one of the first farmers to try using a nethouse to grow
As the savings group secretary, Nov Keo tallies up the year's total savings, loans, and interest during the end-of-year ceremony. He was also one of the first farmers to try using a nethouse to grow "safe vegetables" for the Phnom Penh market.

Man pointing to poster-sized balance sheet filled with numbers.

UC Davis researcher Karen LeGrand with Thort Chuong, in front of another farmer's nethouse in Cambodia built after they helped connect scientists, farmers, and marketers with technologies from the Horticulture Innovation Lab.
UC Davis researcher Karen LeGrand with Thort Chuong, in front of another farmer's nethouse in Cambodia built after they helped connect scientists, farmers, and marketers with technologies from the Horticulture Innovation Lab.

Smiling in front of a farm field with net structure

Cheng Sokhim is one of the farmers who started using a nethouse for safer pest control and to earn higher prices for her leafy greens such as kale, Chinese mustard, bok choy and curly leaf lettuce.
Cheng Sokhim is one of the farmers who started using a nethouse for safer pest control and to earn higher prices for her leafy greens such as kale, Chinese mustard, bok choy and curly leaf lettuce.

Woman crouching, smiling among vegetable seedlings in a nethouse structure.

Posted on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 8:50 AM

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