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The 2009 ASHS Annual Conference

Microbial Food Safety Training for the Produce Industry In New Jersey

Monday, July 27, 2009
Illinois/Missouri/Meramec (Millennium Hotel St. Louis)
Wesley Kline, Agriculture and Resource Management Agents, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Millville, NJ
Larry Hardwick, Chief, Bureau, of, Commodity, Inspection, and, Grading, New Jersey Department of Agiculture, Trenton, NJ
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that between 1998-2006 five commodity groups make up 76% of produce related food borne illness outbreaks (lettuce/leafy greens – 30%, tomato – 17%, cantaloupe – 13%, herbs – 11% and green onions – 5%).  In September 2006, an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in spinach grown in California affected the whole produce industry when the FDA stopped sales of spinach in the United States.  New Jersey growers lost over $500,000.  Rutgers Cooperative Extension and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture developed a food safety program to educate growers and buyers on food safety and what is required to meet the increasing demand from the wholesale industry for a third party audited food program.  Thirty-seven workshops and presentations with over 1400 participants were held from January 2007 to December 2008.  These workshops covered worker health and hygiene, animal/wildlife and livestock management, manure and municipal biosolids use, field sanitation, field harvesting and transportation, packing house management, storage facilities, pest control and produce traceback.  A food safety manual was developed along with an accompanying CD to address all topics and provide documentation logs.  Following the workshops growers scheduled on-site evaluations of their operations prior to having a formal third-party audit.  The main problems observed were incomplete records, lack of pest control and proper latrine maintenance.  Growers gained better understanding of how important food safety is to their operations with the workshops and on-site visits.  Fifty-two New Jersey operations passed the United States Department of Agriculture Third Party Audit Verification after this program.