Food safety training curriculum from the Produce Safety Alliance is in the final development stage, with hopes of rolling out the program by late summer or fall.

“We hope to run pilots of the ‘train the trainer’ sessions in June,” said Elizabeth Bihn, director of the alliance and coordinator for the National Good Agricultural Practices Program at Cornell University.

Funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Produce Safety Alliance was formed to develop food safety educational materials and a training program, with much of its focus on smaller growing operations, many of which are exempt from FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act requirements.

“Just because you are exempt from the regulation, you aren’t exempt from the marketplace,” Bihn said March 21.

She said she has been working with growers in recent weeks who have told her their buyers are implementing food safety requirements regardless of the size of growing operations. Bihn said some buyers will likely adopt the final version of FSMA rules as their default requirements.

Smaller growers, exempt from FSMA rules if sales average less than $500,000 in the past three years and the majority of those sales were to end users, can’t afford to ignore food safety, Bihn said. Even if their customers don’t require food safety programs, those growers can still be held liable if foodborne pathogens on their produce makes people sick.

The training program being developed by the Produce Safety Alliance is expected to be a two-day format and include hands-on sessions as well as lecture-style presentations. The sessions will be offered nationwide, with a particular emphasis on training extension agents.

“We also believe grower associations and trade groups will take advantage of the train-the-trainer program,” Bihn said.