HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s produce growers will receive valuable assistance in meeting expectations under the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act thanks to a $6.3 million grant awarded to the state’s Department of Agriculture.
The funding, spread across five years, gives the department resources to implement a produce safety system, develop and provide education and outreach, and to develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of the growers in Pennsylvania’s farming communities.
The cooperative agreement comes after the development of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule, which establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption.
Pennsylvania was one of 42 states to receive a portion of the $21.8 million in total funding.
“Pennsylvania received a sizable share of this FDA funding, which will prove vital in implementing outreach to our entire produce industry,” said Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf. “We produce a variety of fruits, mushrooms and vegetables, grown by a diverse group of farmers, many of whom are part of the plain sect community. Our prior history with most of these growers in performing voluntary audits has built a rapport and trust that is critical in order to move forward in implementing these important safety standards.” The department currently provides voluntary GHP/GAP (Good Handling Practices/Good Agricultural Practices) audits to growers who need a third-party inspection to meet market demands for food safety and quality.
The FSMA inspections will expand this to all non-exempt growers across Pennsylvania.
The cooperative agreement will allow the department to triple staffing in the Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services Fruit and Vegetable Division to nine full-time staff.
Current staff and newly-hired staff will be trained before they can perform audits and inspections. They will also work with Penn State Extension staff to educate growers and ensure compliance.
Producers will first be audited, where department staff will review the facility and work with producers to identify any corrections and improvements that need to be made in order to pass the FSMA inspection. Staff will return later to perform the official inspection on the facility.
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