SALINAS, Calif. — With federal food safety rules on the horizon, the Produce Safety Project is gathering input from growers nationwide on what exactly what those rules should cover.

Food safety meetings provide plenty of comments for FDA

Courtesy of the Produce Safety Project

Jim O'Hara, director of the Produce Safety Project, with Sonia Hammond, local cooperative extension coordinator, during a break in the Produce Safety Project’s meeting in Seaside, Calif., on April 26.

The Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University wrapped up its fifth meeting in series of forums on April 27 in Salinas, bringing growers, shippers and officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration together to discuss the legislation.

Jim O’Hara, director of the Produce Safety Project, said the meetings focused on gathering comments and input to send to the FDA in May, based on talks covering four research areas on which the project has published reports, including employee health, water quality and composting.

“It was a really good conversation,” O’Hara said of the latest meetings.

The meetings also served as an open forum for USDA and FDA officials to ask and answer questions from growers, shippers and others about how the food safety landscape is changing and what companies can expect from possible changes to fruit and vegetable production and shipping.

Some major areas of concern for grower-shippers at all of the meetings involve scalability of food safety requirements, getting clarity on what is considered a small or large farming operation, and what FDA will do in its upcoming rule for the growing, harvesting and packing of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The project worked with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources during the forums. With one more report to publish this year, the meetings represent some of the last work the project will do before its grant ends in September, O’Hara said. Comments from the meetings will be transcribed and submitted to the FDA.

This story was amended to correct the type of funding the Produce Safety Project receives.