Oct 5, 2015
USDA introduces food safety survey

USDA is interested in learning more about how agriculture operations approach food safety.

Shareefah Jackson, a statistician and program manager with USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), recently announced in her blog that the agency is creating a series of surveys that focus on food safety practices used in fruit and vegetable production and processing.

As the mom of a young boy, I am eager to learn more about the activities of growers and processors who supply my family and millions of others with our fruits and vegetables,” Jackson wrote. “In addition to being a mom, however, I am an agricultural statistician. Providing official statistics about agriculture gives me an opportunity to share knowledge about various aspects of the American food system, including food safety measures taken by fruit and vegetable operations across the United States.”

To bring that information into the spotlight, Jackson said USDA’s Economic Research Service and NASS joined efforts and created a series of surveys, which she is administrating.

The surveys focus on food safety practices used in fruit and vegetable production and processing.

“The data obtained may inform our understanding of how USDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may impact operators.”

The 2015 Produce Post-Harvest Microbial Food Safety Practices, 2015 Fruit Chemical Use, and 2016 Vegetable Chemical Use surveys explore current activities of growers and processors and how those activities might relate to food safety, Jackson said. Not since 1998 has NASS surveyed operators about food safety practices, and “we need updated, accurate data.”

“We plan to begin collecting data for the Post-Harvest and Fruit Chemical Use surveys in September 2015,” she said. “Operators, including growers, processors, packers, juicers, peelers and others may receive the survey forms or be personally contacted by our interviewers.”

Jackson said that for those who receive the form, responding online is the most secure and cost-effective way to complete a survey.

“I’ve observed that the vast majority of operators take steps to prevent contamination,” she said. “Yet, as reports show, microbial foodborne illness does happen. One of the crucial steps to prevention is having accurate data about existing practices to determine what other procedures could help producers better thwart contamination.

“Responses from survey participants will provide an accurate picture of what is happening now and may help shape new food safety outreach, guidelines and other technical assistance as FSMA is implemented,” Jackson said. “Responses may also identify areas in which growers and processors could benefit from research into additional prevention tools and resources. So I hope we hear back from everyone who received a survey.”

Gary Pullano

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
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