Produce Safety Alliance offers online training tools

Produce growers looking for qualified produce safety rule trainers can find it easily with a new web tool.

The Produce Safety Alliance website is offering a directory of trainers able to teach compliance with the produce safety rule.

The website allows searches by state or “trainer” or “lead trainer” status.

The Produce Safety Alliance has been given the task of developing the standardized national produce safety training program to prepare fresh produce growers to meet the regulatory requirements in the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act produce safety rule.

The alliance has developed a Grower Training Course and a Train-the-Trainer course, according to the website.

Betsy Bihn, director of the Produce Safety Alliance, said Sept. 8 it had been a year since the group began offering training classes. She said the alliance has already conducted training in more than 25 states.

“We have trained a cadre of PSA alliance lead trainers and all of that information is searchable on our website,” she said.

While the Produce Safety Alliance has focused on training in the U.S., the alliance participated in its first international event in late August in Jamaica, in cooperation with the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

“It has been a really busy, crazy year, but I think we have made some amazing strides forward in terms of training and overcoming a lot of challenges,” she said Sept. 8.

Perhaps the biggest loose end in produce safety rule training, she said, is the still unsettled water testing requirements. The FDA is in the process of revising the water testing rules.

Compliance with the produce safety rule begins in January for the largest growers, but the lack of clarity on water testing regulations raises concerns, she said.

In addition, the FDA has not yet issued its promised guidance to growers on the produce safety rule, Bihn said. She said that while a lot of the produce safety rule — such as sanitary rules — is clear to growers, other parts of the rule need concise guidance.

The FDA has promised the guidance by January, Bihn said.

So far, Bihn said she is pleased with the first year of her group’s training, including the collaboration between state extension groups, regional food safety centers, tribal nations and the alliance.

The alliance is working on version 2.0 of the produce safety rule training, editing the first version to increase clarity and eliminate any mistakes.

The alliance also is expanding its international collaboration, and more training events are expected to be held outside the U.S. in the next year.

Bihn said the alliance will also help states develop lead produce safety trainers.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can support (the states),” she said.

Bihn said that in the long term the marketplace will continue to play an important role in how fast growers comply with the produce safety rule.

Compliance with food safety rules will be a process, not something that happens just one time, she said.