United Fresh 2017 took place June 14 and 15 in Chicago, Illinois. The two-day show discussed the value of the produce supply chain with information about transportation, organics and vegetables and fruits. Here are a few takeaways from the week.

Bayer’s New Grow On Initiative

Every grower appreciates information about how to sustainably grow their produce. Bayer’s Grow On initiative was introduced at United Fresh to provide growers with tools to identify and implement sustainable farming practices, according to the company. They specifically provide information about citrus, grape, pome and stone fruit, potato, tree nut and vegetable growers with information about providing the most nutritious food for their consumers.

Grow On focuses on six key focus areas:

  1. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices
  2. Plant water usage
  3. Improving soil health
  4. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  5. Safe work environments
  6. Reducing food waste

All brochures and information are available on their website for use.

FSMA 101

The basics of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) reviewed by Dr. Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology for the United Fresh Produce Association. FSMA, developed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, has six major rules associated with it:

  1. Produce Safety RuleThe Produce Safety Rule addresses microbiological hazards only and not pesticides and requires someone trained to the Produce Safety Alliance curriculum or equivalent. There are also a few key requirements of the produce safety rule, which applies to covered produce and is generally consumed raw:

    • Agricultural water that contains produce or food contact surfaces, including hands
    • Domesticated or wild animals and their excerta that may come into contact with produce
    • Biological soil amendment of animal origin (manure) that may reasonably come into contact with produce.
    • Health and hygiene of workers that contact produce (harvesters, sorters and packers)
    • Equipment, tools, building and sanitation like tools, utensils, containers and equipment
    • Growing, harvesting, packing and holding activities that may reasonably be a source of contamination

  2. Preventative controls – human and animal foodThis rule updates Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) for human food and requires cGMPs for animal food and requires a food safety plan. Many tasks can be done by a Preventative Controls Qualified Individual.
  3. Foreign supplier verification programs (FSVP)This rule applies to importers and not foreign suppliers. The FSVP importer does not equal an importer of record if you own or have agreed in writing to purchase.
  4. Accredited 3rd party certificationThis rule is not in effect yet and has very limited application. It evaluates foreign suppliers for Voluntary Qualified Importer Program inclusion and provides a foreign facility certification if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires it.
  5. Sanitary transportationTraining is required for this rule but FDA training is not out yet. It’ll be freely available online, though.
  6. Intentional adulterationFood defense only applies to registered facilities and not farms with a less than 10 million annual revenue. This rule has a similar approach to Preventative Controls and identifies vulnerabilities and puts in mitigation steps.

Water Safety

McEntire also moderated a small panel about the best practices in water safety. Drew McDonald, vice president of quality and food safety at Taylor Farms, referred to severak irrigation methods such as surface irrigation, over-head sprinkler, drip irrigation, sub-irrigation and rain. He mentioned the need to think about food safety risks, quantity and quality factors, surface water sources, salinity, foreign material like clogging and groundwater sources.

Not only that, but there are a few food safety considerations. A dirty well is very different from dirty surface water, McDonald noted. The risk of pathogen transference is well studied and more is on the way. However, the risk is low, McDonald mentioned, but it depends on stop stage and the application method mixed with environmental factors.

Dr. Kaiping Deng, senior scientist at the Institute for Food Safety and Health, took the audience through their project titled Validation of Cross-Contamination Control Washing. The project dealt with the use of antimicrobials in wash water which yielded some benefits: it prevented cross-contamination and there was pathogen reduction on the product surface.