Texas A&M AgriLife center in Uvalde to host water summit through remote participation

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Matt Taylor, 979-862-7678, matt_taylor@tamu.edu

UVALDE – The Produce Safety Alliance, Texas A&M AgriLife and Southern Center for Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance to Enhance Produce Safety will present an opportunity for agricultural producers to participate in Water Safety Summit 2018 through remote site conferencing Feb. 27-28.

A remote opportunity in Uvalde will allow participants to interact with the Water Safety Summit 2018 in Covington, KY. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

The Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde will join the summit remotely, allowing real time participation with the Produce Safety Alliance-hosted Water Summit 2018 to take place Covington, Kentucky. The summit will address water safety concerns related to plant produce handling and human disease transmission.

The free two-day event in Uvalde will be at the center, located at 1619 Garner Field Road. It will include informational presentations and breakout discussions as part of an interactive program.

To RSVP for the remote summit in Uvalde, go to https://tinyurl.com/yd867lu2. Participation is limited to the first 30 registrants.

“Water used during the growing, harvest and post-harvest handling of fruits and vegetables represents a potential vehicle for cross-contamination with human pathogens,” said Matt Taylor, associate professor of animal science at Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College Station.

Taylor says in the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule, microbial quality standards are established for agricultural water that comes in contact with covered produce to reduce microbial hazard risks associated with agricultural water use. However, he added, the Food and Drug Administration has received feedback from numerous stakeholders raising concerns some of these standards may be too complex to understand and difficult to implement.

“In response to these concerns, FDA is considering how to address these issues by exploring ways to simplify the produce safety standards related to agricultural water,” he said. “This summit will allow producers to better understand the FDA standards and provide input on how to possibly simplify them so they can be implemented in practical ways and still ensure consumer safety.”

Taylor said remote site participants will explore challenges related to the requirements of Subpart E – Agricultural Water, and discuss possible workable solutions that will still protect public health.

“Comments from remote locations will be consolidated and sent forward in real time,” he said. “But the number of participants at remote locations will be limited due to the logistics involved in summit facilitation.”

Taylor said the Uvalde remote summit on Feb. 27 will include breakfast and a catered lunch provided by Food Safety Net Services in San Antonio.

The summit will begin at 8:30 a.m. with registration, followed at 9 a.m. by a welcome and introductions and a 9:30 a.m. presentation by keynote speaker Dr. Stephen Ostroff, FDA deputy commissioner for food.

This will be followed by a presentation of summit goals and objectives, including:

— Discussion of diverse ways water is being used in farms across the country, and challenges/concerns related to current standards for water quality and testing.

— Discussion of development of minimum standards, practices, or approaches to identified challenges and concerns based on existing Produce Safety Rule requirements that control hazards and are practical for safe production of fruits and vegetables.

— Recommendation of actionable next steps related to the standards, practices or approaches that address the identified challenges and concerns.

The first day’s agenda will also include general session and breakout sessions as well as reviews of the breakout sessions. There will be a general session on Produce Safety Rule standards for agricultural water and an overview of requirements and the status of the regulation. There also will be general session discussion of what existing risk assessment models and tools can do to quantify risks and prioritize hazards.

Breakout sessions will include identifying concerns and challenges to meeting current PSR production water standards as well as identifying specific hazards to produce safety based on geographic region, type of operation or commodity type.

The Feb. 28 agenda will include discussion of the previous day’s presentations and sessions as well as general sessions on what E. coli results tell about food safety hazards and on sanitary surveys and their value for hazard identification. There also will be another general session on prevention and mitigation, including on-site treatment, in-field die-off and other hazard reduction strategies.

There will be a breakout session on processes or management options supported by science and practical considerations for controlling hazards as well as group session discussion of practical approaches and practices to control risks on the farm and meet FDA public health goals. These will be followed by a group session discussion on how summit information may impact FDA policy and what other information the FDA may need to develop a path forward.

For a full tentative agenda, go to http://bit.ly/2sdYeTg.

For more information, contact Matt Taylor at 979-862-7678 or matt_taylor@tamu.edu

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Source: Agriculture Section – AgriLife Feed

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