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N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force

Goal & Purpose | History | Working Groups | Co-chairs| Talking Points


GOAL OF THE TASK FORCE

To ensure that North Carolina has a competitive, vibrant and safe fresh produce industry supported through the research, teaching and outreach programs of N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University, N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Farm Bureau and industry groups.

PURPOSE OF THE TASK FORCE

The N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force minimizes food safety risks and enhances the economic competitiveness of North Carolina’s fresh produce industry.

The Task Force is a partnership that brings together members involved in education, public policy, the fresh produce industry and research. Partnering institutions and agencies include:

  • North Carolina State University – Cooperative Extension, including the program areas of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Family and Consumer Sciences, the Departments of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences; Horticultural Science; Agricultural and Resource Economics; Agricultural and Biological Engineering; and Family and Consumer Sciences.
  • North Carolina A&T State University – Cooperative Extension, Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, and Family and Consumer Sciences.
  • North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services – North Carolina Food and Drug Protection Division and Marketing Division.
  • United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • North Carolina Farm Bureau
  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
  • Commodity Groups
  • Fresh Produce Brokers/Distributors
  • Individual Growers

HISTORY OF THE TASK FORCE

The N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force was formed in April 2007 under the direction of Dr. Trevor Phister, formerly with N.C. State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, with the help and guidance of departmental colleague Dr. John Rushing and Dr. Jonathan Schultheis, Department of Horticultural Science. The Task Force was formed with members of the above groups to help identify and address the needs of the fresh fruit and vegetable industry in the area of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and fresh produce safety.

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WORKING GROUPS

The task force consists of five working groups:

  • Working Group 1 – Education: Works to ensure that the fresh produce industry understands and implements GAPs through effective and dynamic educational programs.
  • Working Group 2 – Research: Works to ensure that research-based crop production and management guidelines are used to maximize produce safety.
  • Working Group 3 – Industry and Policy Relationships: Works to ensure that industry and public policy decisions regarding fresh produce safety are informed by science-based information.
  • Working Group 4 – Communication and Networking: Works to ensure that a network of government, university and industry collaborators work together in an effective and timely manner to communicate and address food safety incidences and concerns.
  • Working Group 5 – Executive Management Oversight: Works to ensure that the N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Task Force is effectively managed and supported and is integrated with other organizational initiatives through the N.C. Food Safety and Defense Task Force.
  • Working Group 6 – Small Farms: Works to ensure that solutions for GAPs education and certification address the needs and conditions of N.C. small farms.

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CO-CHAIRS OF THE N.C. FRESH PRODUCE SAFETY TASK FORCE

  • Dr. Ben Chapman (Benjamin_Chapman@ncsu.edu), NCSU – 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences Department, Assistant Professor & Extension Food Safety Specialist
  • Diane Ducharme (Diane_Ducharme@ncsu.edu), NCSU – Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI), GAPs Program Coordinator & Extension Associate in Horticulture & Food Safety
  • Dr. Chris Gunter (Chris_Gunter@ncsu.edu), NCSU – Horticultural Science Department, Assistant Professor
  • Dr. Eduardo Gutierrez-Rodriguez (egutier2@ncsu.edu), NCSU- Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Services, Assistant Professor  & Extension Specialist Fresh Produce Safety

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NC FRESH PRODUCE SAFETY TASK FORCE TALKING POINTS ON FSMA’S PRODUCE SAFETY- SPRING 2009

Scale appropriate. Regulations or laws for produce safety must be appropriate to the scale of a farming operation. All produce farms should comply with baseline produce safety protocols. Protocols established must be consistent with existing rules and regulations.

Risk based. Measures to mitigate produce safety risk or to implement solutions, must be based on the assessment of the risk. Focus should be placed on those measures and solutions that will make a difference based on risk assessment and not superficial changes simply to “look good,” but that do not result in real risk reduction. The process for variance from rules will be important to North Carolina due to geographic and climatic diversity.

Science based. Specific measures to mitigate produce safety risk or specific metrics included in produce safety solutions, must be based on sound science. Funding research to develop a science-based approach to on-farm produce safety should be a priority. Produce safety research must also be conducted regionally. Climatic conditions in the Southeast are significantly different from those in the West and Midwest and Northeast.

Tiered compliance. Compliance with produce safety measures should be tiered to reflect farm size, market served and risk. All fruit and vegetable producers should comply with baseline produce safety measures: Additional tiers of compliance would be mandated by risk, market demands and developed based on science. If USDA is not the key agency, their technical and marketing expertise must shape implementation.

Farmer driven. North Carolina is being proactive in farmer driven produce safety initiatives. The process is inclusive of all farm sizes, fruit and vegetable crops and includes conventional and organic production.

Mitigate risk proactively. Produce safety legislation and regulations should mitigate risk based on scientifically derived practices through education and incentives rather than punitive measures for non-compliance.

Market recovery. Legislation should include measures for market recovery and assistance to producers who through no fault of their own were unable to market crops due to a mandated recall.

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