Fresh produce contamination is a significant concern regardless of the produce grown, production system used, size of farm, or market outlet. With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in January 2011, training and certification requirements were redefined for produce growers, with new regulations finalized in November 2015. These new rules pertain to areas of production, handling, processing, and marketing.
Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), the educational outreach program of Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, has a track record of providing quality, relevant, and research-based education to the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 2013, VCE created an interdisciplinary Fresh Produce Food Safety Team to spearhead statewide efforts to provide comprehensive, interdisciplinary food safety education from farm to fork. VCE’s Fresh Produce Food Safety Team works across the varied Virginia landscape with farms of all sizes, which grow vegetables, fruit, and niche produce crops, and sell to different market outlets.
The Team is comprised of extension specialists, agents, and partners working to increase and strengthen internal capacity within VCE, as well as developing and delivering food safety educational programming to our many stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Virginia (see map figure below). The Fresh Produce Food Safety Core Management Group provides input in the planning, development, management, and evaluation of extension programming research and outreach objectives. Field Team Members represent on-the-ground VCE agents and community partners engaged integrally in the broader goals of the Fresh Produce Food Safety Team.