(May 17) FRESNO, Calif. — The California Grape & Tree Fruit League has developed food safety guidelines for its members designed with a new audit-based federal-state inspection and review program in mind.

The idea in drafting the document, “Food Safety Plan and Verification for Fresh Fruit Commodities,” is to give fruit growers several options in certifying food safety programs, said Richard Matoian, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League. Growers can use a private food safety certification firm or use Federal-State Inspection Service personnel to review procedures and documents.

Or they can use both.

This season marks the first year of Fresh Produce Audit Verification Program developed by state departments of agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Federal-State Inspection Service already conducted quality and grading inspections and the new audit verification program allows for the same inspectors to verify food safety of a packing plant on pass/fail basis. The program is designed to help the produce industry verify voluntary adherence to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.”

The audit program examines worker health and hygiene, water use, receiving, washing and packing line, field harvesting and transportation, traceback programs, sewage treatment and manure use.