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ALEI, UMD, and MDA Collaborate on Produce Safety Rule Trainings for Maryland Produce Growers

By: Kimberly Johnson

This February, the Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI) is working with University of Maryland (UMD) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to provide two Produce Safety Rule (PSR) Growers Trainings.

The first training will be held in Leonardtown, Maryland on Feb 11 and the second will be held in Frederick, MD on Feb 20.

The PSR is one of seven rules established by the Food Safety Modernization Act, a 2011 federal law passed to help prevent foodborne illness. The PSR requires all farms subject to the law to have at least one supervisor or responsible party to attend a grower training for certification from the Association of Food and Drug Officials. To receive this certificate, one must attend the entire training and submit the appropriate paperwork to the trainer at the end of the course.

Sarah Everhart, Legal Specialist and Managing Director of ALEI at the Francis King Carey School of Law, will serve as one of the trainers at these two events. Everhart, author of several resources on food safety, including the Guide to Drafting a Model Recall Plan for Maryland Farmers, stresses the importance of food safety training. “No farmer wants to be the cause of a foodborne illness outbreak. All produce growers would benefit from attending a training and learning how to strengthen on-farm food safety procedures,” Everhart said.

Attendees will learn about identifying microbial risks, practices which reduce or prevent risks, and how to implement produce safety practices on the farm. The trainings cover all the areas of food safety required by the PSR including, but not limited to:

  • Worker health and hygiene,
  • Water quality standards for growing and harvesting produce,
  • Biological soil amendments used for growing produce,
  • Cleaning and sanitizing harvest and post-harvest equipment, and
  • Monitoring and regulating domestic and wild animal intrusions.

Nicole Cook, Environmental and Agricultural Faculty Legal Specialist for ALEI at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Everhart are also hosting a three-part webinar series on the PSR. The webinars will be held on the first Friday of the month from January-March.

The first webinar, “I am Qualified Exempt from the Produce Safety Rule, Now What?” was recorded and is available for watching on ALEI’s food safety page (https://umaglaw.org/about/food-safety/).

Cook will host the final two webinars, as well as teach modules in the upcoming grower trainings. “The webinar series is designed for people who have already attended a PSR training, and have questions about how to comply with some of the more complex parts of the PSR. On February 1st, we’ll review worker training requirements, and on March 1st we’ll discuss water testing requirements. These and the qualified exempt rules are the parts of the PSR requirements that we get a lot of questions about at the trainings, so the webinars are a chance for growers to learn more about what they need to do in order to comply with the rule,” Cook said.

Funding for the grower trainings and webinar series was made possible, in part, by the Food and Drug Administration through grant PAR-16-137.  The views expressed in written materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health & Human Services; nor does any mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organization imply endorsement by the United States Government.


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