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Food safety workshops set for produce growers

MSU Extension Service

JACKSON – Fruit and vegetable growers can learn techniques to make their produce safer for the consumer during one of four upcoming Mississippi State University workshops.

Specialists with the MSU Extension Service and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station will conduct four separate workshops across the state on developing and implementing good agricultural practices and good handling practices.

The voluntary guidelines, referred to as GAPs and GHPs, were issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 1998 to help growers eliminate food safety hazards that can occur during growing, harvesting, cleaning, washing, sorting, packing and transporting unprocessed foods, such as raw fruits and vegetables.

“More distributors are becoming aware that preventing and controlling the contamination of fresh produce at the farm is key to producing wholesome, healthy products,” said Barakat Mahmoud, an assistant research and Extension professor of food science at MSU. “By completing GAP and GHP certification, producers can assure government regulators and customers worldwide that the produce industry in Mississippi is diligent in its commitment to producing safe, high-quality products.”

The following workshops are scheduled:

  • Jan. 13 at the Forrest County Extension office, 952 Sullivan Dr., Hattiesburg;
  • Feb. 10 at the Frank T. (Butch) Withers Jr. Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center, 1320 Seven Springs Rd., Raymond;
  • Feb. 17 at MSU’s Bost Auditorium, 190 Bost, Starkville campus; and
  • March 11 at the Coastal Research and Extension Center, 1815 Popps Ferry Rd., Biloxi.

All workshops will begin at 8 a.m. and end at 5 p.m.

Topics include site selection and soil; agricultural water; fertilizer and pesticide use; animal exclusion; worker health and hygiene; produce cleaning and water treatment; packing and storage; traceability; harvesting; cooling; transportation; and U.S. Department of Agriculture audit verification checklist.

Registration is free and open to all Mississippi fruit and vegetable growers who sell to the fresh market. Seating at each location is limited to the first 25 participants to preregister. A pre- and post-test will be given. Those completing the course will receive a certificate of completion. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

To preregister or for more information, contact Mahmoud at 228-762-7783, ext. 301, or bmahmoud@ext.msstate.edu.

The workshop is funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Southern Risk Management Education Center. Instructors are MSU Extension and research professors Mahmoud, Christine Coker, Eric Stafne and Gary Bachman, and Alcorn State University food safety specialist Nicole Bell.

The MSU workshops are free, but farmers must pay for each independent audit of their farms. Mississippi farmers who successfully pass the certification class can apply for a cost-share program through the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to help cover the cost of the initial audit. For more information about this program, contact Michael Lasseter at 601-359-1120 or michaell@mdac.ms.gov.

Released: November 25, 2013
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