We’ve been hearing questions from a lot of farmers about food safety training and, in particular, whether they need to sign up for a Produce Safety Alliance training being offered this fall or winter focused on compliance with FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule for produce farms.
The short answer is: probably not. What most produce farmers need right now is basic food safety education programs to help them implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) on their farms. Some of these practices may be new to farmers, and since implementing effective food safety improvements on the farm can take time, it’s good to start getting prepared as soon as possible.
For farms that must comply with FSMA, the Produce Safety Alliance training is one possible option for meeting FSMA’s training requirements. A drawback of this training, however, is that it is a standardized curriculum. FDA has acknowledged that more FSMA training alternatives will need to be developed for different farm audiences, and while the Produce Safety Alliance training program will eventually be tailored to meet regional needs and a diversity of operations, that has not happened yet. This means that, although the Produce Safety Alliance training will start rolling out this fall and winter for interested farmers, for many it may not be the best option at this time.
Farm food safety training is a continuum, and not all farms are at the same point along the road. The key for farmers is identifying the right on-ramp for their business based on their current situation. Now that all the food safety rules have been finalized and the standardized curriculum is in place, it is likely that new, more tailored training programs will continue to rollout in the coming months. Farmers should not, therefore, feel rushed or pressured to sign-up for a FSMA training this winter that may not address their particular needs.
Since most farms still have several years before they have to be in compliance with FSMA, and many farms are new to food safety requirements, it may make sense to start implementing food safety practices through a GAPs program before moving on to a FSMA-specific training. On the other hand, a farm that has over $500,000 in annual produce sales and must come into compliance in January of 2018, or that has existing experience with GAPs and may even be GAP certified, is likely more ready for a FSMA-specific training like the Produce Safety Alliance.
We’ve tried to provide more clarity to the situation through this Frequently Asked Questions on FSMA Training Requirements for Produce Farms.
Here are some organizations that provide food safety training programs for small farms, direct marketing farms, and other local food producers:
These lists are non-exhaustive and continuously updated! If you run food safety training programs or offer educational resources and would like to add them to these lists, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org