Bridging the GAPs: Approaches to Treating Water On Farms

B R I D G I NG TH E GA P S : A P P RO A CH E S TO T R E A T I NG WA T E R ON F A RM S

Preventing foodborne illness and the protection of public health is objective 7.1 of the US Department of Agriculture 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. Sanitary irrigation water for produce is mandated by the USDA, including monitoring, treating and verifying compliance. Proper food sanitation is imperative to prevent situations like the Yuma, AZ E. coli outbreak in the spring of 2018 that ultimately resulted in 210 reported illnesses from 36 states, 96 hospitalizations, 27 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and five deaths. The outbreak was linked to romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma region. In March 2019, FDA published a rule called Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption; Extension of Compliance Dates for Subpart E, which:

• Extends ALL provisions of Subpart E (Agricultural water) other than sprouts including the safe and sanitary quality, annual inspection, and postharvest water monitoring requirements.

• FDA has stated that the reason for this extension is to allow time “to address questions about the practical implementation of compliance with certain provisions and to consider how we might further reduce the regulatory burden or increase flexibility while continuing to protect public health.”

• Until the process of consideration is finished, the water requirements are the Rule.

A multi-state, interdisciplinary team of public and private sector experts have partnered together to create a curriculum designed to help producers 1) Understand the regulatory requirements for ag water treatment in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), 2) Find the right water treatment system for their farm, 3) Develop standard operating procedures that will be effective in treating water on their farm and to monitor its implementation, and 4) Ensure that the proper system is implemented correctly and that employees are trained in its use, maintenance and repair. This curriculum, Bridging the GAPS – Approaches for treating water on-farm , is a four-module curriculum designed for a producer audience. The curriculum has been piloted on a limited basis to make initial improvements to improve its effectiveness. It is ready for a broader implementation. Being part of the current New Technologies for Agricultural Extension federal grant will bring the additional resources of the NTAE team to work alongside the Bridging the GAPS team to expand its scope and refine its effectiveness to impact the safety of the national food supply, particularly irrigated produce.

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