The practice of food safety has become commonplace for
anyone in the produce business, and a terminology that
is handled with pages and seemingly volumes of detail,
due care, and time consumption. Food safety has become
a mainstay and mandatory part of the produce business
……. to assure that the crops grown, packed, shipped and
sold to consumers are healthy and bacteria/pathogen free.
My, how far we have come in such a short time. Consider
that just one decade ago, food safety was something we
automatically did, naturally. It was something far different than what is required today by our own government,
and by a number of your customers who resell the crop to
consumers. Well, reminiscing is fine, but it’s time to move
on to current day business.
The National Watermelon Association has been intimately
involved with food safety since 2007, and continues to
provide guidance, interpretation, support, and even debate
when needed. Helping our members to understand the new
regulations; challenging the auditors and audit expectations
to be sensible and consistent with other practices; leading
our watermelon industry to implement effective programs
such as these; and encouraging education and preparedness in all aspects of food safety, traceability, recalls and
outbreak responses to minimize any potential damage to
the association’s members and the industry ……. These
are all part of the cornerstone program that we call Food
Safety. This is one of the major priorities that we stand for
- - doing the right thing, effectively.
The National Watermelon Association website has a
plethora of information related to food safety that you can
refer to on an ongoing basis. On this page of The Vineline
is a snippet of what is available to you.
We all know well enough that the world of produce has
changed in the past few years, especially as it related to
food safety. What once was a normal, relatively easier
process has now become the Food Safety Modernization
Act, commonly referred to as FSMA.
FSMA is the most comprehensive overhaul of food security and food safety law in our nation’s history, and with it
has come extensive regulations, audits, audit requirements
and procedures, and high costs - - all to assure the safeness
of the produce food supply.
The FDA has now completed the writing, review and issuing of all seven rules that make up FSMA. The details
of each rule, who is responsible for each rule, and when
FDA will begin enforcement of them is detailed out on the
National Watermelon Association website.
The seven final rules are in place, and we now await the numerous guidance documents that will complete FDA’s writing
task to interpret the Congressional intent of the law. They are:
• Produce Safety rule
• Preventive Controls – Human Food
• Preventive Controls – Animal Food
• Foreign Supplier (Import) Verification rule
• Sanitary transportation rule
• Accredited Third Party Certification
• Intentional Adulteration rule
For years the Association has worked in concert with
produce industry members, regulators, and stakeholders
to analyze the FDA’s proposed regulations under the Food
Safety Modernization Act. Following the public comment periods and public hearings, the final rules have been
released, and will follow with numerous guidance documents.
Our efforts now shift to the implementation (and watchful
1. The Association will continue to work with the FDA to
analyze the guidance documents as they are written and
released to assure that they are based on sound science,
consistent with Congressional intent of FSMA, and appropriate for our industry.
2. While the final FSMA rules are released, as we await the
release of the accompanying guidance documents, and the
efforts to understand the rules begin to take shape prior to
the enforcement phase by FDA, the Association will work
with our produce industry partners to make the appropriate education tools available to our members. We will also
work with FDA’s enforcement division to seek education
opportunities ahead of enforcement.
3. The Association has serious concerns about exemptions based on farm size. We firmly believe that any farm
that sells their crop into the commercial market should be
subject to the same food safety laws as those that are larger.
Pathogens do not select their farm victims by size of sales
As we come across any of these new developments, we
will ask Congress to remain vigilant to assure that the
original Congressional intent of FSMA is realized. We
will request that Congress consider ‘fixes’ to FSMA when
those needs arise. And, we will implore Congress to create
a legislative fix to eliminate the small farm size exemption. When those times and opportunities arise, we will
ask you to make contact with your representatives to push
our agenda forward. Until that time(s) arise, we thank you
for imp0lementing the rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and for doing your part to provide a wholesome,
healthy summer favorite to consumers ….. Watermelon!
In 2007 the Executive Committee of the National Watermelon Association directed staff to assemble, write and
create our own commodity-specific food safety program
that could become a model for our industry. In cooperation with the academic community, government officials,
associated produce executives, retailers, foodservice operators and members from our membership, we unveiled
the first edition in 2008, followed by an update in 2009.
We are beginning a review of the guidance and accompanying documents to create a third issue in 2017.
The guidance is extensive, and covers many details of a
typical audit without retailer riders:
• Farm Self Audit
• Packer Self Audit
• Worker Hygiene
• Carrier Monitor Log
• Visitor Log
• Water Source Testing
• Rodent & Insect Control
• Field Environment
• Worker Education
• Equipment Sanitation
• Restroom Sanitation
• Much more ……….
The release of our Watermelon-specific food safety
program for farmers and packers, called the “
Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines for the Fresh
Watermelon Supply Chain”, is available in both English
and Spanish languages. Each section of the lengthy
document is printable and downloadable on the National
Watermelon Association website.
“Food safety has become a standard expectation of
any produce industry to maintain and build consumer
confidence. With the advent of produce outbreaks due to
food safety issues, there has never been a more important time for our industry to build on our growing and
handling practices to provide a safe, healthy watermelon
supply. Although these guidelines are voluntary, they in
large part mirror the new final rules of the Food Safety
Modernization Act. We look forward to supporting your
efforts to implement these standards into your operation,
to help you to protect our industry and your operation,
to continue to provide a safe and healthy crop, and to
continue to build consumer confidence. Together, we
can make a difference.” - - Bob Morrissey
None of us ever want to experience first-hand (or even
hear about) a recall or outbreak in the watermelon industry, but unfortunately that is a possibility that we cannot
take for granted or simply avoid. The key for all of us is
to be prepared, to do what we must do to avoid that from
occurring in our businesses, and in turn to help lessen
the burdens that always accompany such a major issue.
A number of years ago, the National Watermelon
Promotion Board (NWPB) created an effective crisis
communications plan and put it into place to assist their
staff and the industry to be prepared to address a crisis
Please do yourself a huge favor …… do not assume that
your business is responsible for all of most of the rules
until you have reviewed the materials, asked questions,
and gain the verification that you should have. The
rules are specific to certain businesses, environments
and practices, and are not subject to all as a one-size-fits-all scenario.
that the watermelon industry may face. The plan has a
number of resources in place to ensure that the industry
is prepared. Priority-issue positions and messages have
been developed, and a crisis team has been designated that
includes industry members, staff, and third-party experts,
along with contact databases that have been created for
key industry members, media and third-party resources.
NWPB conducts annual crisis communications training
for its staff and board members, and audits its crisis plan
annually to ensure that it is consistent with new technology and trends. Staying ahead of this issue is a vital key
to protecting the industry of (or when) such an occurrence
should darken our industry’s door.
The National Water-
some key information
refer to the key
and be sure to keep
(just in case).