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    Fresh Summit Highlight: Small Growers and the Food Safety Modernization Act

    The focus on local sourcing is shining a spotlight on smaller and local growers. Yet the limelight brings with it an increasing need and ability to comply with food safety measures, presenting both opportunity and challenges for these same growers.  Likewise, produce buyers face multiple hurdles in putting together a fully-compliant food safety program incorporating local and small growers.

    Despite the apparent exemptions for small growers provided for in Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), small and local growers are not exempt in the eyes of the marketplace from having an effective and verifiable food safety program. All growers have sound reasons for ensuring they follow the most up-to-date food safety practices. Pathogens don’t discriminate based on size or location; therefore we all need to be focused on developing risk and science-based food safety programs. At a time when our country faces an obesity crisis and consumers and buyers are looking for both “local” and year round suppliers of safe produce, suppliers without adequate food safety programs could find themselves at a market disadvantage.

    This dilemma provides the motivation for the Small Growers & the Food Safety Modernization Act: Challenges & Workable Solutions seminar during PMA’s 2011 Fresh Summit International Convention & Exposition, October 14 through 17 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The session is designed to provide a forum for smaller growers to talk about the opportunities and challenges they face in developing a food safety program.

    During this session, I will moderate a panel of small growers that will share their experiences in developing food safety programs. I’ve specifically asked them to talk about their motivations, the challenges they’ve faced and the opportunities they’ve encountered. With that base, we’ll then add a panel including retail and foodservice buyers along with food safety experts and regulatory officials to discuss integrating different size growers into a food safety plan. We’ll be able to share the panel’s perspective on how we might be more effective in creating inclusive food safety education, training and operational programs befitting small and local growers. 

    This session has also been developed so our industry can provide direct input to the FDA on the scalability of food safety programs. As the Food and Drug Administration proceeds with developing the rules and regulations to implement the FSMA, we have an opportunity as an industry to help them write informed rules while at the same time reach out to smaller and regional growers to help them build state of the art food safety programs.  Certainly, one thing we’ve learned over the last decade is that we are all in this together regardless of commodity, location or size of our production.  I look forward to a stimulating discussion during this session and hope to see many of you there.

    For more information on registering for Fresh Summit, or any of the workshops, please log onto our website www.pma.com and look for the Fresh Summit link under Events and Conferences.

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