By Tricia Wancko, Food Safety Grant Coordinator

Punxsutawney Phil has decreed six more weeks of what has shaped up to be a frigid winter, but there are plenty of food safety projects to catch up on while the fields are frozen and you’re keeping toasty inside your burrow. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP) grant recipients have been busy at work on projects that help provide food safety training and education to small and mid-sized producers and processors across the country. Put a log on the fire, grab a warm beverage, and read on for the hot scoop on what’s going on in your neck of the woods. 

Down in the South where temperatures have been a bit warmer, NFU partners were chosen to showcase their work at the February FSOP Project Roundtable meeting. 

The Mobile Farm Innovation Project is a collaboration between Auburn University, Alabama A&M University Small Farms Research Center, Deep South Food Alliance, and Fort Valley State University. Their mobile trailer—or modern-day Jesup Wagon—brings hands-on food safety education, training, and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and minority growers in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Attendees of these movable workshops get practical experience setting up low-cost cold storage systems, working with sanitizing solutions, taking water samples, building hand-washing stations, and even creating a Google map of their farm. This hands-on approach integrates education on produce safety while giving growers the tools they need to carry out real changes in their operations—all in the hopes of increasing small farm success.  

While ponds may be frozen right now, work on helping growers manage water safety is simmering. 

Over in the Midwest, Kansas State University and the University of Missouri are helping produce growers in in their states test sources, interpret results, and implement strategies to make their water safer—all for free. On-farm ponds and cisterns can be especially challenging to manage, so the team at K State Research and Extension and Mizzou are extra focused on testing sanitizer effectiveness on these specific sources.  

On the West Coast, Washington State University is helping farmers learn more about pre-harvest water treatment and how they can implement it on their farms as a key food safety practice. To date, they’ve trained 125 growers using their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP)-based curriculum. This is just one of the many training programs the university offers on food safety that can help growers make sense of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules and requirements.  

Beyond produce safety, efforts toward educating small and medium-sized processors on food safety standards have been warming up.  

On the East Coast, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has developed and hosted a training course customized to small and emerging specialty food businesses in order to help entrepreneurs understand food safety considerations from concept to commercialization. The team at UMASS provides education along with technical support to make sure operators are anticipating risks, identifying potential food safety hazards, and coming up with a food safety plan that charts a course action to reduce and eliminate these risks. As the market for locally and regionally produced value-added products continues to grow, so does the need for this type of food safety education, working towards not only a healthy food supply but also healthy bottom lines for these emerging businesses.  

Before the days get longer and the ground begins to thaw, take some time to check out all the food safety resources NFU and our partners have gathered to help growers untangle FSMA’s Produce Safety and Preventive Controls for Human Food Rules. Check out the Local Food Safety Collaborative website along with the Food Safety Resource Clearinghouse for a curated source of food safety guides, factsheets, templates, and more. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the latest food safety news.  

This project website is supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award 1U01FD006921-01 totaling $1,000,000 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by FDA/HHS, or the U.S. Government. 

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