USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs GAP audits, which are voluntary, third-party services that verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the FDA. Photo courtesy of Iowa Food Hub.
In the produce industry, food safety is front and center on everyone’s mind. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released some of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) final rules, and retailers are looking to buy from FSMA-compliant suppliers. If you’re a retailer or large produce buyer, there is exciting news about a program that verifies that suppliers are meeting your food safety requirements. After three years of successful trials, USDA recently previewed our plans to expand the GroupGap Pilot Program.
Many producers are aware of “Good Agricultural Practices,” or GAP audits. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI) performs GAP audits, which are voluntary, third-party services that verify that farms are following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Read more »
“We create opportunities for American ag businesses,” said Casey Wong-Buehler, AMS Commodity Procurement Program Specialist. “Trips like this help us ensure that our procurement requirements provide a realistic framework for our vendors to successfully supply quality food.”
Across the country, schools are back in session. Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our inspectors and procurement specialists work hard to make sure that quality, domestically-produced foods are delivered to students and other recipients for our federal food purchasing programs. As students are getting used to their new schedules, we would like to highlight how our own little field trip shed some light on a typical day for some of our employees.
A team of AMS employees recently traveled to Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative that supplies apple and cranberry products for federal food purchasing programs. The employees saw first-hand how USDA inspectors help Knouse and other companies verify the quality of their products. As the apple sauce traveled through the facility, USDA inspectors pulled random samples to make sure that they met product quality and condition requirements. All USDA Foods are required to be inspected, and in this case, inspectors pulled samples of apple sauce to evaluate traits like its color, flavor, and consistency. As an independent third-party, the inspections help suppliers meet USDA Foods requirements but they also can help them meet requirements from other buyers. Read more »
This summer, several employees joined our staff as interns in our New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia locations. The program allows students to gain practical work experience while the agency helps develop future leaders. (Pictured left to right): Summer student interns Joe Dionne and Elliot Alexander; Specialty Crops Inspection Division Assistant Central Region Branch Chief Phil Bricker; AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Associate Deputy Administrator Chris Purdy. (AMS photo)
Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the many benefits of creating marketing opportunities for ag businesses is seeing first-hand how the industry supports 1 in 12 jobs all over the country. In addition to feeding the world, the ag industry continues to be the strong backbone in our nation’s economy – in both rural and urban areas. To help continue this trend, we set out to groom the next generation of ag leaders. Our Fruit and Vegetable Program developed a strong relationship with high schools in a couple of the country’s largest cities, allowing students to work with the agency while still enrolled in high school.
We started in New York City, home of the Hunt’s Point Terminal Market – the nation’s largest wholesale produce market – so that students at John Bowne High School could get their feet wet in the agriculture industry. We did this by offering the students the opportunity to come on board as interns for our Specialty Crops Inspection Division (SCI). Employees in this division inspect produce entering and leaving Hunt’s Point, which employs more than 10,000 people and generates $2 billion in sales annually. Thanks to a budding relationship with this school featuring a strong ag curriculum, students can now get practical work experience while in school. Read more »
The Harmonized GAPs Food Safety audit provided by AMS has helped small grower Warren Ford expand his business from selling a couple hundred bushels of peas a summer to selling more than 3,000 cases a summer to Walmart. Photo courtesy Warren and Rosha Ford.
For the produce industry, the summer and fall of 2015 is more than a chance to share a new season of crops with customers. It’s when several of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws will become final. FSMA will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing foodborne illnesses. My colleagues at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have been working hard with our partners to expand our outreach efforts about food safety to help the produce industry prepare for compliance.
One of the ways that we help the industry prepare for compliance is through a successful partnership with Cornell University and the FDA via the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA). We recently renewed this partnership through a Cooperative Agreement that enables the three entities to devote funds for training and outreach events. Since 2010, AMS has enjoyed working with our colleagues to engage with produce growers, industry members, regulators, and extension educators through working committees, public meetings, focus groups, and webinars. Read more »
Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending a public meeting held by our colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update for the pending Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This law will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing food-borne illnesses. I spoke on behalf of my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – as part of a panel of domestic and international officials who provided the government’s perspective on how we would like to see the final law implemented.
With several of the law’s rules set to become final later this summer and early in the fall, the FDA is still seeking comments and suggestions for the best way to implement FSMA. The meeting, which included breakout sessions where participants could start an open dialogue about the implementation, is part of the FDA’s emphasis on educating the industry before regulating it. Read more »
The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.
Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.
Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »