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Register Today for Produce Safety Rule “How-To” Webinars

Strawberries, Edwin Remsberg; Blueberry bush in bloom, Larriland

By Sarah Everhart

Many produce growers in our region have attended the mandatory full-day training to learn about the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule (PSR). However, translating the requirements into practice can be difficult and have led to common areas of PSR non-compliance for growers in this region. To help farmers remedy these issues, the Maryland Food Safety Network has created a monthly free webinar series titled “Food Safety Fridays- a ‘How-to’ Webinar Series.”

Held one Friday each month from May to November, each installment of the series breaks down one PSR requirement and gives advice on how to achieve compliance in that area. The next webinar on August 21, 2020, at noon, will focus on managing wildlife and pre-harvest risk assessments. Register here: https://foodsafetyfridays.eventbrite.com.

The PSR outlines requirements for monitoring wildlife and performing pre-harvest assessments, including scouting for signs of “significant wildlife intrusion,” establishing “no-harvest” buffer zones, and incorporating a “no drops” policy for workers who are harvesting. But how can you tell if intrusion is “significant?” What needs to be included in a pre-harvest assessment? And what is the best way to establish “no harvest” buffer zones?

While farms have flexibility to determine pre-harvest strategies that work for them, operation-specific techniques like multiple harvests add an extra element needing consideration in order to keep compliant under the PSR. According to Alec Loranca at the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), “In some cases it’s been observed that farmers will look through the field prior to harvesting that day, if contamination is found workers are usually informed of the area verbally. In Maryland, some crops will be harvested over a course of multiple days and when going back through the field after feces has been found, workers have trouble pinpointing previously identified ‘no-harvest’ areas since it was done verbally and nothing was used to identify it. This could be a potential for contamination.”

Tips for navigating multiple harvests, determining buffer zones in small operations, making pre-harvest assessment checklists, and more will be covered on the August 21st webinar.

Last month, the series tackled how to how to use microbial testing as a means to assess risks with water, and how to marry that information with water distribution assessments to help farmers make decisions on how they can store, convey, and use water safely in the field and in the packhouse.

All webinars are recorded and available to watch on the Maryland Food Safety Network Platforms, including umaglaw.org/about/food-safety/,  extension.umd.edu/foodsafety , and https://psla.umd.edu/extension/produce-safety .

This webinar series is recommended for operators who have attended a Produce Safety Rule Grower Training and want more information on how to apply what they learned and what records they need to keep to be in compliance with the PSR. Because the PSR is based in federal law and establishes national standards, growers from outside of Maryland are welcome to attend and will benefit from tuning in. Take a look below to see the remaining webinar schedule:

August 21, 2020, How to: Manage Wildlife

-Learn how to conduct pre-harvest assessments for wildlife and how to create appropriate buffer zones for contaminated produce.

September 18, 2020, How to: Develop a Sanitation Program

-Learn how to identify equipment requiring cleaning and sanitizing (including transportation equipment) and create and implement cleaning and sanitizing schedules.

October 16, 2020, How to: Apply, Handle and Store Biological Soil Amendments

-Learn how to determine if your soil amendment is treated or untreated, establish composting protocols, and safely apply and manage untreated amendments on the farm.

November 20, 2020, How to: Put It All Together in a Food Safety Plan

-Learn how to structure what you have learned throughout the webinar series into a customized food safety plan for your farm.

Register for the free webinars today at https://foodsafetyfridays.eventbrite.com! Registration for each webinar is required. Anyone with questions can contact Sarah Everhart at 410-458-2475.

Funding for this series of webinars 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. University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class.

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