Scott Monroe

17 articles by this author

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In the last two months, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released several communications dealing with the Produce Safety Rule (PRS). The following is a brief summary of those communications: Guidance On September 5, FDA released Guidance for Industry: Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption: What You Need to Know About the FDA Regulation – Small Entity Compliance Guide. This is a compliance guide, prepared by FDA, to assist small entities in complying with the PSR. Copies of the document may be downloaded at https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/ucm574281.htm?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery. Testing of Agricultural Water On September 11, FDA announced that it had determined that the following water testing methods are “scientifically valid” and “at least equivalent” to the method of analysis (EPA Method 1603) in §112.151(a) in accuracy, precision, and sensitivity: Method 1103.1 – Escherichia coli ( coli) in Water by Membrane Filtration Using membrane-Thermotolerant Escherichia[Read More…]


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Rhonda Taylor has recently joined the Department of Food Science, and the Extension food safety team, as Food Science Outreach Extension Specialist and Food Processing Manager. Rhonda obtained her B.S. in Science from the Purdue University School of Agriculture focusing on Ecology and Land Management, as well as an additional A.S. Degree in Applied Science in Biotechnology.  Prior to coming to Extension, she worked as a seed analyst for the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center and as a research technician working with soybeans and canola. Rhonda joined Purdue’s Food Science department in 2013 as a laboratory manager/research assistant in Food Safety with a research focus on food-borne pathogens, primarily in poultry and beef. In her new position, Rhonda will function as the point of contact for Food Science Extension programming. This includes working with the fresh produce industry, homebased vendors, and those interested in food processing validation studies. She[Read More…]


The new SafeProduceIN website is now live and may be accessed at www.SafeProduceIN.com. SafeProduceIN is a collaboration between Purdue Extension, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, and the Indiana State Department of Health. The purpose of the collaboration is to assist Indiana produce growers with implementation of the Produce Safety Rule.  The new website will serve as a one-stop website where growers can submit produce food safety related questions, access food safety and FSMA resources, and register for trainings.


Managing domestic animals in a direct market venue can be very challenging. While best practice is to exclude domestic animals from production and packing areas, produce may be exposed to domestic animals at the point of sale if selling at a produce auction or farmers market. When selling through a direct market venue, growers should take steps to exclude domestic animals from produce. This may mean appropriate signs discouraging or prohibiting pets or a designated area where buyers may tie-up their pets away from the display area. Service animals present a special case. Service animals are protected by both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Indiana Law. Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the[Read More…]


Figure 2. Pooling of water.Pooling is the collection of water in a low area of the field as is shown in a low corner of this asparagus planting.

Recent heavy rains across much of the state have resulted in widespread ponding and flooding in fields. This creates multiple considerations for those growing produce for fresh consumption.  Flooding and pooling create food safety challenges because of their potential to introduce contaminants (i.e. risk) into the production system. However, with proper management, many of these risks can be mitigated. Following heavy rains, growers should first determine if water in their fields is the result of pooling or flooding. Pooling is more common than flooding.  Pooled water generally accumulates in lower areas of the field or between rows, especially if raised beds are used. The key distinction between flood water and pooled water is that flood water originates from an uncontrollable source such as a river or creek.  Standing water that originated from a river or creek would still be considered flood water. Pooled water can cause damage to crops, but[Read More…]


I have recently received calls from growers who use surface water to irrigate produce crops. Their concern was that the results of their current water tests were very different from their last tests and that levels of indicator organisms appeared to have increased dramatically. Ponds and lakes that are used for irrigation can be very dynamic. Research has shown that levels of indicator organisms can change dramatically in a very short time. Because surface water is open to the environment and unprotected, changes in temperature and weather can affect ponds and lakes. During the spring and autumn seasons, ponds and lakes undergo inversions, stirring up sediments that have settled on the bottom of the pond. Rainfall can also cause bottom sediments to be stirred up. Bottom sediments may contain any number of materials. Soil particles from runoff are one of the primary components. Decaying bits of plant and animal debris may also be found in bottom[Read More…]


With the 2016 growing season upon us, many produce growers will soon be collecting water samples from irrigation and postharvest water sources for microbiological analysis. Using proper techniques to collect water samples will help to prevent inaccurate testing results. When collecting water samples, one should start with the appropriate collection container. Many laboratories will only test water samples that are received in their containers. Consequently, it is important to select a lab, determine their individual requirements, and obtain the appropriate containers prior to collecting samples. Generally, containers used for water sampling will be large enough to hold at least 100 ml of water. The interior should be sterile and the container should be sealed to prevent contamination. Sampling containers may also contain crystals or tablets when received from the lab. These tablets or crystals are made of sodium thiosulfate and are place in the container to neutralize any chlorine that[Read More…]


In January 2016, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Rule, became law. This rule, as part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, sets a standard for produce food safety. The water testing component of the produce rule requires growers to regularly test irrigation water. While a previous article dealt with water testing requirements, I’ve received questions as to exactly who is required to test water. As a result, I wanted to review the steps in determining whether or not one is held to the water testing requirement. The first step is to determine if you are covered by the produce rule. An excellent flowchart to help determine coverage may be found at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472499.pdf. If you’re gross produce sales averaged $25,000 or less in the last three years or you are growing produce for your own personal consumption only, then your farm is[Read More…]


The Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule addresses many issues with regard produce food safety. One issue not addressed is the issue of biological soil amendments of animal origin (i.e. manure). When issuing the rule, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose to leave blank those portions of the rule dealing with the required interval between manure application and harvest of covered crops pending a comprehensive risk assessment by the agency. FDA has initiated its comprehensive risk assessment process by publishing a request for scientific data, information, and comments in the Federal Register on March 4. There will, most likely, be other requests for comments as FDA investigates the issue and incorporates its findings into the produce rule. The entire request, along with instructions for submitting comments, can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/04/2016-04712/risk-assessment-of-foodborne-illness-associated-with-pathogens-from-produce-grown-in-fields-amended  


In January 2016, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Rule, became law. This rule, as part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, sets a standard for produce food safety. Not all growers are covered by the rule. An excellent flowchart to help determine coverage may be found at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472499.pdf. For those growers who are covered by the rule, there is a training requirement. Growers will have from 2-4 years, depending on farm size (defined by gross sales), to comply with training requirements. The general requirement of the produce rule is that all personnel who handle covered produce (i.e. commodities covered under the rule) or food contact surfaces or are engaged in supervision of those personnel must receive adequate training, appropriate to the person’s duties, upon hiring and at least once annually thereafter.  The rule goes on to say that personnel must[Read More…]