How We Grow

2019 July/Aug How We Grow

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18 AROUND THE WORLD Start of 2019 Sees Food Safety Gains, Progress at the Ports For the past three years, California almond producers have been preparing to meet the demands of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Produce Safety Rule, which was finalized in 2016 as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Since the rule's passing, the Almond Board of California (ABC) has been working with almond growers and hullers/shellers to help them determine how the Produce Safety Rule applies to them and what they need to do to comply. Then, on March 27, 2019, the FDA issued a final Guidance Document, announcing the use of enforcement discretion for certain commodities covered under the Produce Safety Rule — including almonds. In the document, the FDA states, "We will not expect entities growing, harvesting, packing, or holding these commodities to meet any of the Produce Safety Regulation requirements." This means as long as the Enforcement Discretion remains in effect, almond growers and hullers/shellers are no longer subject to Produce Safety requirements. The decision was partially credited to ABC's forward-thinking approach to food safety, including a mandatory pasteurization program that has helped keep California almonds salmonella-free for more than 12 years. "This is a monumental achievement for our industry and a tribute to the extensive investments in food safety that the almond industry made starting long before the enactment of FSMA," said Brian Dunning, chair of ABC's Almond Quality and Food Safety Committee. Those same investments soon proved significant for the almond industry as weeks later the International Association for Food Protection selected the Almond Board of California to receive the prestigious GMA Food Safety Award. "This award is the culmination of many years and countless hours of work by ABC staff, researchers, and industry leaders to elevate California almonds to an honored best-of-class position in the field of food safety," said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board. Diligence extends beyond the orchard In addition to public recognition and appreciation for the California almond industry's work in the realm of food safety, the industry has also seen successes on the export front, including a reduced number of rejected shipments due to aflatoxin at European ports. After evaluating Pre-Export Check (PEC) program data culminated from 7,500 shipments — about half of what is sent to the EU annually — Tim Birmingham, ABC's director of Quality Assurance and Industry Services, said tests are The Almond Board's PEC program helps identify potential aflatoxin contamination in almonds going to the European Union to ensure shipments are in line with regulatory limits. "Aflatoxin levels in the crop are trending lower, and with tighter screening, we have seen a reduction in the number of rejections in the EU compared to last year." – Tim Birmingham

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