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Food safety meeting

Produce growers and other interested parties from across Ohio can attend a listening session April 30 about the Food and Drug Administration’s proposed new food safety rules for produce.

“We encourage people to register in advance, but walk-ins are welcome,” said Ashley Kulhanek, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, which is the outreach arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

In addition to growers who might be concerned about how the new rules will affect their farm operations, the session will be of interest to grocery store buyers and other wholesale buyers of fruits and vegetables, and anyone interested in farm practices that can decrease the risk of foodborne illness from fresh produce, she said.

A 2012 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention associated produce with 46 percent of all foodborne illnesses in the U.S. between 1998-2008.

The session will be 1-4 p.m. in the Shisler Conference Center on the Wooster campus of Ohio State’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), 1680 Madison Ave.

The program is being hosted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio State, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and OSU Extension. OARDC is the research arm of CFAES.

Just last week, the FDA announced it was extending the comment period on the proposed rules to Sept. 16, 2013.

The April 30 listening session is an extraordinary opportunity to talk directly with FDA officials about the rules and their implications, Kulhanek said.

The proposed produce safety rules focus on standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on farms. They are geared toward produce, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, sprouts and nuts, that are likely to be eaten fresh. Not included is produce that is rarely consumed raw, such as potatoes, or is destined for commercial processing.

The rules apply to conventional and organic farms and to greenhouses. Hydroponic produce is also included.

The proposed rules are part of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. For more information, go to http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ and click on the links associated with the produce safety rules.

To register in advance for the meeting, see the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Web page at http://bit.ly/FDAmtg.

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