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New York Ag News Headlines
Food Safety Instruction: New Guidelines for Marketers
New York Ag Connection - 11/29/2011

Each year, thousands of people report illness from food borne pathogens. Many of these are caused by critical breakdowns in processing and preparing food products for sale to consumers. While farmers remain conscientious about their role in maintaining food safety, a new set of guidelines for farmers, and other direct marketers of food products has been developed and will be presented to Cooperative Extension educators throughout the state.

The Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) program has provided clear cut guidelines for farmers to follow in production and post-harvest handling to minimize the risk for contamination. Farmers following these guidelines will have a safe product to bring to market. But there are no standards or guidelines concerning retailing venues where farmers sell their products direct to consumers. How do we maintain environments that enhance the safety of the foods being sold?

The Farmers Market Federation of NY and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County received a Federal State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grant from USDA AMS to develop a set of guidelines for farmers and farmers market managers to follow to ensure that foods being sold in various farm direct marketing outlets will be protected from potential contamination and be safe for consumers. The guidelines present recommended actions to take to minimize the risks of contamination in the retail setting. Looking at such factors as product, display, animals in the marketplace, vendor hygiene, consumer contamination and other factors, the guidelines will help farmers recognize the potential risks and provide recommendations to minimize those risks. They are based on sound science, compliance with current food safety regulations and ease of farmer implementation and intended to enhance the quality of local agriculture as well as consumer awareness and safety .

To assist farmers in utilizing the guidelines, the project team has developed a full curriculum for Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators and other farm service providers to use in local workshops to train farmers and market managers in assessing the risks in their retail operations and adopting guidelines that will minimize those risks. The curriculum covers farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), on-farm markets, agritourism, direct delivery and crisis communications. The curriculum can be found at the Farmers Market Federation of NY website, www.nyfarmersmarket.com. There is no fee for download and no restrictions on who may download, only that you provide a name and email address to allow the project team to follow up.

The Farmers Market Federation and CCE Jefferson County will be hosting a series of "train-the-trainer" workshops to introduce CCE Educators and other farm service providers on the use of the curriculum. Learn how you can help the farmers in your county and region to develop a plan to keep their foods safe in their direct marketing enterprises, keeping their customers safe and ensure the reputation and vitality of their farm operation. The first of these workshops will be held via webinar Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to noon; and again on Dec. 16, from 10 to 11 a.m.. To register, email Diane Eggert @deggert@nyfarmersmarket.com.

Farmers are encouraged to contact their county Cornell Cooperative Extension office. Ask when they will be offering the "Food Safety at Direct Marketing Venues" workshops and encourage them to participate in the train the trainer webinars. The workshops will help you keep your customers safe and your farm secure.

For more information, contact Amanda Rae Root at arr27@cornell.edu or Diane Eggert at deggert@nyfarmersmarket.com.

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