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Food safety is focus of leadership class seminar

Training on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was a focal part of the most recent activities of the 2024 Eastern Produce Council (EPC) Leadership Class. The FSMA seminar was held on April 30, before the general EPC membership meeting at Top Golf in Edison, New Jersey.

The members of the class discussed various aspects of FSMA and food safety issues as they relate to current business. "The hands-on nature of this seminar is very valuable to our participants," said Susan McAleavey Sarlund, EPC executive director. "The class members worked in smaller groups to confront exercises about low, medium, and high-risk situations. This topic is still such a crucial part of our industry."

The food safety seminar was led by Meredith Melendez, associate professor at Rutgers Cooperative Extension in Ewing, New Jersey. She guided the group through a deeper understanding of food safety in the produce supply chain and a discussion on what farmers go through to meet the requirements. The session emphasized the importance of communication throughout all sectors of the industry concerning food safety.

The 2024 EPC Leadership Class after its FSMA seminar at Top Golf.

"Compliance includes the need to understand risk in the farm environment," said Melendez. "Prevention of these risks and response to risky situations is part of a farmers daily routine. I most enjoy the group exercise aspect of this session, where we use farm situation photos showing hazards and the group gets to decide what the perceived risk is and prioritize the response that should be made in each situation. This gives the participants an opportunity to put themselves in the farmer's shoes and try to reduce risk and ensure safe food is being distributed. My hope is that the participants leave this session understanding a bit more about the daily decision-making that happens at the farm level."

The EPC Leadership program provides select participants the chance to develop leadership skills and additional industry exposure in both field and classroom. "Our activities this year have already provided a useful interchange of information as well as networking opportunities," said McAleavey Sarlund. "Our upcoming events this fall include field tours at America's Grow-a-Row and Rutgers Snyder Research Farm in Pittstown, New Jersey, as well as a leadership seminar given by a Rutgers University adjunct professor.

Participants selected for this year's program include: Jackson Brady, Crispy Green; Kate Degan, JOH; James Ferrier, organicgirl; Jessica Huber, America's Grow-a-Row; Devin Hunt, T.M. Kovacevich; Nick Kraus, MamaMia Produce; David Linthicum, Wakefern Food Corp.; Dustin Manento, Four Seasons Produce; Therese Mauch, Zespri; Chantal McCrossin, F&S Fresh Foods; Jason Morris, Oppy; Cassi Nicodemo, Highline Mushrooms; Ryan O'Neill, Four Seasons Produce; Mohini Patel, Wakefern Food Corp.; Michael Porcile, JOH; Jillian Rudolph, John Vena Inc.; and Jessica Ziglar, Oppy Transport.

For more information:
Susan McAleavey Sarlund
Eastern Produce Council
Tel: +1 (908) 723-0645
[email protected]

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