Sprout growers learned about how proposed Food and Drug Administration produce safety regulations could affect their operations.

During a March 20 Web seminar, presenters from the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in Washington, D.C., discussed the proposed produce rule and requirements sprouters should expect.

Seminar addresses sprout safetyFrequent recalls and concerns about the safety of sprouts have prompted restaurant chains and retailers — including Walmart and Kroger stores — to drop the item.

Joy Johanson, FDA produce safety staff consumer safety officer, said sprout producers would be required to adhere to many of the provisions in the proposed rule’s agricultural water section.

Regulators plan to include provisions relating to environmental monitoring to verify effectiveness of sanitation practices and focus on sprout seeds and beans.

“It is well-established sprouts can become contaminated through the use of contaminated seeds for sprouting,” Johanson said. “When you grow, harvest and pack seeds for sprouting, this provision requires you to exercise control over that input for sprout production.

When the agency wrote the rule, it considered requiring a supplier approval and verification program for seeds and beans received by sprouters, Johanson said.

Such a program could assure that seeds or beans from third parties are grown, harvested, stored and handled using measures reasonably necessary to prevent the introduction of hazards on the seeds or beans used for sprouting, she said.

Stephen Grove, manager of industry projects at the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology, said a Sprout Safety Alliance technical working group has completed four chapters of a guidance document and continues developing more.

Grove said the group is focusing on smaller growers and plans frequent updates to its website — http://www.iit.edu/ifsh/sprout_safety/ — to keep industry members informed on safety changes.