UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Pennsylvania produce growers, food processors and animal feed producers preparing to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) can provide Penn State Extension with input — via an anonymous survey — that will help guide the development of relevant educational resources.
Passed by Congress in 2011, FSMA establishes regulatory practices that produce farmers, food processors and feed manufacturers must adopt to prevent contamination of fresh produce, processed and manufactured human foods, and animal feeds.
Penn State Extension recently added a link to three industry surveys on the homepage of its FSMA website. Survey participants should complete the versions tailored to their segments of the food industry — there is a survey for produce growers, one for human food processors and one for animal feed producers. Personal information is not required, and individual survey responses will not be shared publicly.
The surveys ask participants about their needs and preferences regarding FSMA education and include a few multiple-choice questions about how they would categorize their food business or growing operation. Each survey takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Extension educators will consider feedback from the surveys as they develop future educational resources.
Penn State Extension encourages participants to complete the survey by March 15, after which results will be compiled and evaluated. Extension also welcomes industry groups and trade associations serving those in the human- and animal-food processing or fresh-produce industries to share the website URL (http://extension.psu.edu/fsma) with their members to invite their participation in the survey and connect them with opportunities for FSMA education.
The FSMA survey project is conducted in coordination with the Pennsylvania Ag Resource Centers, a partnership between the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
The Penn State Extension FSMA website also contains a variety of educational resources, including videos, handouts, articles and news updates about FSMA regulations. In addition, website visitors can use the site to communicate with food-safety extension educators and to register for educational FSMA workshops being held throughout the state.
Over the next several years, the Food and Drug Administration will begin enforcing the mandated food-safety activities and record-keeping requirements outlined in the Food Safety Modernization Act. The act includes seven regulations, and current Penn State Extension resources focus on three that will significantly impact Pennsylvania's growers, distributors and processors: the Produce Safety Rule, the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule and the Preventive Controls for Animal Food Rule.
These rules require food and feed businesses to take a preventative, instead of a reactive, approach to understanding and controlling potential food safety risks in their operations, according to Luke LaBorde, associate professor of food science in the College of Agricultural Sciences.
"Penn State Extension has the expertise to assist growers and processors with developing science-based strategies to prevent foodborne illnesses before problems occur," Laborde said. "By surveying the industry, we can identify current needs of Pennsylvania's producers and processors and strategically prioritize educational efforts that will help them comply with the regulations."
Utilizing current food-safety research and science-based solutions for the prevention of microbial contamination, Penn State Extension offers a wide array of food-safety programs, which have trained thousands of produce growers, food processors and food-service workers. Extension food-safety educators already have begun to help businesses interpret and implement the new FSMA regulations, with a dual goal of protecting consumer health and ensuring the success of produce growers and food and feed operations, which are essential to Pennsylvania's economy.