Baton Rouge, LA – The Southern University Ag Center is participating in a $3.625 million grant to assist produce growers in improving their safety practices ahead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) implementation of its Produce Safety Rule.
The grant was awarded to the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry by the FDA. The Southern University and LSU Ag Centers are collaborators on the grant with the SU Ag Center receiving about $500,536.
Earlier this year, the FDA awarded a total of $21.8 million in grants to agencies in 42 states to help implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
“The funds will help educate farmers, especially small and underserved produce growers, about the Produce Safety Rule that is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act,” said Fatemeh Malekian, SU Ag Center Professor of food science and nutrition and Project Director of the grant. “The SU Ag Center will bring experience and collaborate with other entities in conducting farm inventory (especially for small farmers), conducting a self-assessment/readiness, evaluating existing statutory and/or regulatory authority related to produce safety, conducting trainings and determining the changes to establish, operate and maintain a Produce Safety Program that is supportive of the requirements in the FDA's Produce Safety Regulation,” she continued.
The SU Ag Center will also hire a Produce Safety Program Coordinator to oversee the progress of the project.
The Produce Safety Rule was finalized in November 2015 and sets standards for growing, harvesting, packing and storing fruits and vegetables. It addresses water quality, composting, farm personnel health and hygiene and equipment sanitation among other issues. Large farms must comply with the rule by January 2018. Smaller farms have more time to comply.
Malekian stated that both Ag Centers will work together to create an inventory of Louisiana farms, especially small farms, subject to the Produce Safety Rule and related state regulations. The Ag Centers will also jointly educate growers on safety practices and rules through several workshops that are being planned for early 2017. These workshops will explain how the new regulations will affect farms and what steps growers must take to get in compliance.
Malekian and several LSU AgCenter agents will travel to Overton, Texas, from Nov. 7 - 8, to take a train-the-trainer course taught by experts from Texas A & M University, the Produce Safety Alliance and the LSU AgCenter.
“This will provide me with the background and information I need to teach and set food safety workshops utilizing the FDA produce safety standards,” added Malekian.
*Funding for this statement, publication, press release, etc. was made possible, in part, by the Food and Drug Administration through PAR-16-137. The views expressed in written materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government.*