Page 13

Food Safety Institutional food-service providers must be confident that the fruits and vegetables they purchase and serve have been grown, handled, and prepared under clean conditions and that the food is safe to consume. Farmers wishing to make sales to food service institutions must be prepared to discuss and verify their efforts to bring clean and safe products to market. A producer can help assure that their products are clean and safe by managing their operation according to a set of general standards known as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Compliance with the GAP standards reduces the risk of products being exposed to contamination from biological, chemical, or physical sources. GAP standards address water quality, soil amendments, general farm sanitation, crop protection, harvesting, and handling practices. The standards recommend a tracking system be established that allows products to be properly identified should it be necessary to recall or withdraw any product from the marketplace. Many programs are available to give farmers guidance about good agricultural practices for their farm operation. These programs can be found on various land-grant university extension web sites and most are based on the US Food and Drug Administration’s

Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. This guide can be downloaded from the FDA’s website at www.fda. gov/downloads/food. The Ohio Produce Growers and Marketing Association (OPGMA) has been instrumental in launching a food safety certification program tailored to the diverse needs of Ohio growers. The Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement (OPMA) certification program should be underway by early 2012. The voluntary program will be governed by an advisory board, a technical review board, and through formal approval by the director’s office of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The producer will be expected to participate in yearly training. Producers will also need to comply with the program’s core production and handling standards as well as certain administrative criteria. The marketing agreement has three levels, or tiers, of compliance depending on where farmers intend to sell their products. The first tier is well suited for smaller operations that sell in their local market. The mid-tier is suitable for auction sales and intra-state sales. The third tier of compliance is appropriate for larger operations selling product at the inter-state and national level. The need for an annual farm inspection/ audit depends on the compliance tier 11

selected by the grower. If the core standards are met, the producer can market their products as certified by OPMA. A grower does not need to be a member of OPGMA to participate in this program. To learn more about the Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement, contact or call 614-487-1117. The Ohio State University Extension Food Safety Team conducts food safety workshops throughout the state and at the yearly OPGMA Congress. The threehour training course guides producers through the steps needed to assess the food safety risks on their farms. The course includes a workbook loaded with resources and information appropriate for any farm operation. Completing the training workshop is a requirement to seek OPMA certification. To find out more about the training class schedule and cost, contact the OSU Extension Fruit and Vegetable Safety Team website at or call 330-202-3555 ext. 2918. Food Safety continued

Ohio's Specialty Crops: A Boost to Food Service Menus  
Ohio's Specialty Crops: A Boost to Food Service Menus  

Ohio’s Specialty Crops: A Boost to Food Service Menus is intended to be a resource for specialty-crop producers (individually or producers w...