Achyut Adhikari, Paudel, Krishna P., Fontenot, Kathryn
Achyut Adhikari, Krishna P. Paudel and Kathryn Fontenot
Food safety is a global concern. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitors and reports on foodborne outbreaks and health hazards every year. From 2000 to 2010, the CDC, along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reported increases in the prevalence of foodborne diseases linked to fresh produce, most of which is imported into the United States. These reports and consumer concerns led to the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011.
Before 2011, producers and processors voluntarily followed good agricultural practices (GAP), good manufacturing practices (GMP) and hazard analysis and critical control plans (HACCP) to minimize the risk of foodborne diseases. The FSMA, however, authorized the FDA to set mandatory, science-based, prevention-oriented standards in five key areas: (1) food preventative controls, (2) produce safety, (3) import safety, (4) international adulteration, and (5) sanitary transportation. These FDA standards apply to the majority of entities involved in the U.S. food supply chain, both international and domestic, including farmers and food processors in Louisiana. The FSMA Produce Safety Rule requires farmers who are growing crops that are consumed raw to follow preventive approaches to food safety as opposed to reactive approaches. While deemed necessary to enhance food safety, these regulations may place certain burdens on farmers.
To aid Louisiana producers in achieving compliance, the LSU AgCenter with support from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Southern Region FSMA Training Center has been conducting sessions on the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) growers training course. After completing the LSU AgCenter training, the farmers are considered to be in compliance with the Produce Safety Rule training requirement, and they receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials, which is an international nonprofit organization recognized by the FDA to manage mandatory training.
To better understand Louisiana farmers’ perceptions of the FSMA, LSU AgCenter researchers conducted a study to identify the major challenges farmers face to comply with the new food safety system and to identify the influence of several factors on the intensity of major challenges related to compliance.
The researchers collected data from Louisiana producers during LSU AgCenter educational meetings in 2017. A total of 53 producers responded to questions on major challenges to compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act and indicated there were three: the cost of implementing the safety measures, lack of knowledge about the FSMA, and the availability of information about the FSMA.
Recommendations are that the LSU AgCenter continue to take steps to enhance farmers’ awareness of all training opportunities available to be FSMA compliant. More training and more knowledge can also lead to enhanced perceptions and attitudes about the role of this landmark act in ensuring food safety in an increasingly globalized society.
Direct Marketing and Sales Contracts
Direct marketing provides opportunities for farmers to make additional revenue from farming. As part of this study, the AgCenter researchers also wanted to identify factors affecting direct marketing channel choice among the 53 Louisiana producers as well as to determine the share of sales to different direct marketing outlets. Direct marketing has been growing steadily as a marketing channel of choice among farmers in the United States. As health awareness increases, so has consumer desire to buy from local sources. Direct marketing involves selling products directly to consumers, retailers, or local institutions such as hospitals, food distribution hubs and schools. Farmers choose to sell these products either through a contract or an open-market sale.
Thirty-nine farmers indicated that they have participated in direct marketing, whereas 10 farmers have not participated in this marketing channel. Only 17 farmers had contracts to sell their products to retail outlets and three farmers had contracts to sell their outputs to local institutions. If farmers are selling outputs directly, they are selling to consumers from farm stores or selling to retailers. Very few farmers are selling to institutions and regional food distributors under contract.
Results of the survey indicate that as the number of restaurants and other retail outlets increase in the zip code or parish where farmers are located, the probability of selling using direct marketing increases. The researchers also found that if the farm is specializing in one or all production activities, the sales to farm stores and farmers markets increases.
Achyut Adhikari is an assistant professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Science, Krishna P. Paudel is the Gilbert Durbin Endowed Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, and Kathryn Fontenot is an associate professor and extension specialist in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences.
Acknowledgements: This study was supported by the Food Safety Modernization Grant Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration through federal grant agreement number 1U18FD005907. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the DHH or FDA.
(This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
LSU AgCenter extension agents listen as AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari, right, talks about the Food Safety Modernization Act during a training session at the Dean Lee Research and Extension Center near Alexandria on Dec. 3, 2015. Photo by Olivia McClure