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Produce safety focus of new Cornell-based organization

Nov. 4 CALS news release. See also Cornell Chronicle article.

Cornell University, U.S. government launch new $1.15 million produce safety alliance

November 4, 2010

ITHACA, N.Y. – A new public-private organization based at Cornell University is being created to help produce growers and packagers promote safety and prepare for future federal safety regulations.

Cornell, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced the creation of the Produce Safety Alliance today.

The three-year, $1.15 million partnership is funded by the FDA and USDA, and will be housed at Cornell through a grant from the Agricultural Marketing Service. Officials said the move will extend Cornell’s national Good Agricultural Practices program, which has been a leader in the development of materials on GAPs and in its dissemination of food safety knowledge to the agricultural community.

Key elements of the Produce Safety Alliance’s work will include:

  • Developing a standardized, multi-format and multi-lingual education program on good agricultural practices.
  • Creating an information bank of up-to-date scientific and technical data related to on-farm and packinghouse produce safety; eventually including the FDA’s proposed produce safety rule.
  • Launching a website to make the alliance’s work and information readily accessible.
  • Establishing a network of educational collaborators.

In 2011, the FDA is expected to issue a proposed rule on the safe production, harvesting and packing of produce.

The alliance is aimed at giving produce growers and packers training and educational materials so they can learn about food safety best practices and future regulatory requirements. In addition to Cornell, the FDA, and the Agricultural Marketing Service, the alliance will have representatives from the Association of Food and Drug Officials, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, land grant universities, growers and shippers, produce trade organizations, and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“In our 12-plus years of working with growers and packers on how best to implement GAPs, we have seen how much they want to do the right thing and meet the industry demand for food safety,” said Betsy Bihn, coordinator of Cornell University’s National GAPs Program. “What growers and packers want is science-based information they can use in the fields and the packing houses to improve food safety practices in practical ways. Our goal is to meet that need today and down the road as FDA moves forward in its rulemaking process.”

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