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The points of contact between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service and the grower & business communities are the NJ County Agricultural Agents. The agents are a tremendous source of information for both new and experienced growers. Visit your local county extension office.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Food safety auditing in produce- is it working?

Due to a proactive industry response, including training by Rutgers Cooperative Extension and a model third party audit system developed with the NJ Dept of Agriculture, Garden State growers seem to be ahead of the curve in adopting and understanding the importance of food safety practices. Other producers may be struggling a bit more with the concepts, as indicated by a safefoodblog post forwarded by FL Ag Agent Gene McAvoy.
--Rick VanVranken
The key point made by author Roy Costa is that despite the complexity in growing fresh fruits and vegetables and that this reality is little understood or accepted by third party auditors and the retailers demanding those audits, the produce industry's track record is pretty good.

While food safety experts, production managers, and business owners struggle with these issues in produce safety, we should keep in mind that the findings of audits will not necessarily always be indicative of risks, and food safety programs no matter how well intentioned will not always prove effective given the robust exposures often encountered in farming environments. We are yet to stop the harvesting of foods where migratory birds have zeroed in, controlled floods, shot every wild pig, or figured out how to keep deer from jumping 8 foot fences to get to crops.

In light of all the obstacles, it’s encouraging to see contamination events caught quickly, and exposures kept small. More and more the contaminated produce that comes to light is recalled and/or production is stopped before a wide-scale outbreak occurs. ... 
             --Roy Costa, Environ Health Associates, Inc., 30.Apr.2011 at