AgCenter to offer new food safety program for produce growers

(11/30/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — As fresh produce growers navigate the requirements for controlling food safety risks, the LSU AgCenter is preparing a new set of educational programs to help them.

The Food Safety Modernization Act requires farmers to take preventive measures against food safety risks, and farmers must document their food safety efforts if they want to become certified for Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices, according to LSU AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari.

GAPs and GHPs are market-driven, voluntary practices farmers can implement to reduce food safety risks. The U.S. Department of Agriculture handles certification, which is required by many retail stores that buy fresh produce.

To help small farmers, packers and processors, the AgCenter will offer GAPs and GHPs programs around the state, Adhikari said. Topics will include food safety, water quality, wasted management, worker health, sanitation, animal management, handling practices and food safety regulations.

Because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, health, hygiene and sanitation training for farm workers will be offered on individual farms in both English and Spanish.

“Adoption of GAPs and GHPs will help Louisiana specialty crop producers increase their economic competitiveness through new market opportunities and regulatory compliance,” Adhikari said.

Financial assistance in the form of a cost reimbursement program will support 75% up to $1,000 of the auditing fees associated with GAPs certification.

The AgCenter will add new materials to its current online multilingual food safety posters and factsheet series that address the risk factors associated with on-farm production of fresh produce and management tactics for minimizing risk, Adhikari said.

New farm food safety training videos will be linked with the AgCenter’s web-based on-farm food safety decision tree application.

“This novel tool helps producers identify food safety hazards and mitigation practices, train their workers, prioritize management tactics and familiarize producers with the principles of GAPs and GHPs,” Adhikari said.

The program is funded by a $75,550 Specialty Crop Block Grant from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

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The LSU AgCenter food safety team provides on-farm food safety training to farmworkers. Photo by Jyoti Aryal

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A member of the LSU AgCenter food safety team helps farmworkers learn the importance of handwashing and sanitation. Photo by Janny Mendoza

11/30/2020 9:11:24 PM
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The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture