The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a revolutionary food safety program designed to help small and mid-sized farmers.
Food safety has been a hot-button topic for the past several years. Recently, a rash of listeria illnesses were traced to tainted cantaloupe grown in Colorado.
Last year, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, requiring the manufacturers, producers, sellers, handlers, distributers, and receivers of food to obtain official registration. The act was designed to shift the focus of the Food and Drug Administration away from responding to food contamination to actively trying to prevent it.
The bill contained several provisions exempting small farmers making less than $500,000.
In order to better aid small farmers and encourage food safety without the added burden of excessive government regulation, the USDA recently launched an online food safety platform designed to help create food safety plans.
Farmers answer a series of questions about worker hygiene, land use, pest control, transportation, packinghouse conditions, and other environmental concerns. The program then helps them create a plan to improve food safety efforts and document their attempts.
In a statement announcing the program, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan stated, “Effectively managing risk is important to all producers, and having an acceptable food safety program is in the best interest of consumers, buyers, and the farmers themselves. USDA is proud to have worked with private, public and non-profit partners to introduce this free tool to farmers seeking to gain certification as a Good Agricultural Practices producer.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer