Like all the efforts within Virginia Cooperative Extension, a critical component of the work of the Virginia Fresh Produce Food Safety Team is fostering and strengthening relationships with our many stakeholders. It is within these valued relationships that we can discuss and better understand the felt and expressed needs of the various communities in which we live, and can together find the most strategic ways to tackle the issues and help address these needs.
Sometimes, the issues represent broader-based societal concerns that are challenging to remedy. Other times, the needs may be more related to finding ways to take complex information and skills, and to distill it down into understandable resources, applied practices, and more easy-to-follow approaches. Again, a fundamental part of being successful is working side by side with a diversity of partners–individuals, farms, community groups, market outlets, school and university systems, state and federal agencies, non-profit groups, etc..
In the next several blog posts, we wanted to share about some of those wonderful partnerships, so we can highlight several of the projects we are actively a part of and the ways we are working together for the common good!
There’s a great deal of work happening in the Mid-Atlantic to get more locally grown and raised food onto store shelves, into school meals, hospital cafeterias, etc. Farmers, food hubs, distributors, state departments of agriculture, local food advocates, and many more, continue to address barriers, and to test solutions, for broadening wholesale market opportunities for local food. At the same time, food safety federal regulations are changing, requiring a higher level of time and investment on farms selling into wholesale market channels to comply with new requirements. Adding to the confusion, not all buyers have the same requirements.
This two-part series, co-sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Government’s Local Food Distribution Work Group and the Chesapeake Farm to Institution Work Group (a partnership of Healthcare Without Harm and the Chesapeake Foodshed Network), will feature expert panelists, respondents (including farmers), and time for discussion. We will explore the basics of food safety laws impacting fruit and vegetable farmers, food hubs, and distributors – what are the new rules, when will they go into effect, what (broad) changes do they require for farms and facilities to come into compliance. We will then explore more in-depth what the wholesale marketplace requires with respect to these rules and how local government, extension services, food hubs, and nonprofits have been working with farmers to help them obtain required certification.
Foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States and abroad continue to make the news. Regardless of whether it is fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, animal products or fish, or packaged products, the on-going incidence of contaminated food has resulted in a demand for food safety assurance and increasing regulation in the farm to fork continuum. While there is no way to completely eliminate all of the potential risks of microbial contamination, there are many food safety practices growers, food handlers, and consumers can implement to reduce risks.
We are excited to share about the Virginia Fresh Produce Food Safety Team and our many efforts in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. We will feature regular news stories, as well as provide information related to upcoming events and opportunities. Make sure to regularly check out our Blog calendar of trainings and other happenings related to produce food safety.
This blog is closely linked to our comprehensive website, http://www.hort.vt.edu/producesafety/index.html, which provides lots of information about the Fresh Produce Food Safety Team, as well as timely and science-based resources geared to reducing fresh produce contamination risks, beginning at the farm level, progressing through the market-place to the final end-user, the consumer. Whether you are a produce grower, a marketplace vendor or buyer, a home consumer, or other interested stakeholder, we invite you to explore our website and stay connected by this blog!
For more information about the Virginia Fresh Produce Food Safety Team or to contact us with any questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.