Colorado Produce Group Lends Growers a Helping Hand
The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association saw the bind new federal regulations were putting its members in and reacted accordingly: by holding mock FDA food safety inspections.
The Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) is holding mock inspections for members in the wake of sweeping new federal Food and Drug Administration regulations.
The new FDA regulations—many of which go into effect this year—date back to 2011, when President Barack Obama signed the Food Modernization Safety Act into law. The intent is to rein in domestic foodborne problems that affected American produce through the early part of the 2000s.
But the regulations are complicated enough that Coloradan farmers and shippers are still struggling with how to properly abide by them.
To combat the confusion, the CFVGA launched a series of mock inspections for local growers, who are as concerned about the how the new regulations may affect how they do business as they are about their harvest. In July, a team of state inspectors joined growers at a Pueblo, Colorado, farm to go through the process.
Part of the program is to teach producers how to handle the bureaucracy. There are multiple checklists to complete and documentation to fill out. Then there are the regulations the workers need to understand, like how to handle the produce. Several more mock audits are planned this year.
“What we don’t want to happen is that growers decide to scale back, maybe change their market,” said Martha Sullins, a partner member, Colorado State University professor, and co-chair of the organization’s food safety committee.
CFVGA is teaching growers how the system works. It also is getting the two groups—the government inspectors and farmers—networking.
“We help to break down some of the barriers,” Sullins said.
Though not nationally known as a breadbasket state, Colorado offers a bountiful harvest. The state’s exports include potatoes, sweet corn, cantaloupe and chillies, said CFVGA Executive Director Marilyn Wentz. That’s why the organization came together in 2014 with the help of a federal block grant overseen by the state government.
Although CFVGA members largely are up-to-date with the federal regulations, most do not have time to dig into the rules, according to Wentz, since they’re busy working and overseeing their staff.
“They’re already in the role of food safety,” Wentz said. “This is just upping [the] ante.”