The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health (IIT IFSH), a nationally-recognized leader in food safety, created the Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) to help sprout producers identify and implement best practices in the safe production of sprouts. The Alliance is developing a core curriculum and training and outreach programs for stakeholders in the sprout production community. Sprouts present a unique food safety risk because the warm, moist and nutrient-rich conditions required to produce sprouts are the same conditions that are also ideal for the growth of pathogens.
The FDA-funded Alliance, initiated in September 2011, is composed of members from the FDA, state regulatory agencies, the food industry, and academia.
Alliance Support to Industry
In January 2013, FDA moved to create new federal regulations overseeing the safe production of fruits and vegetables—as mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—by publishing proposed Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption in the Federal Register. Based on public comments, a supplemental rule was published on September 29, 2014 to propose revisions designed to make the rule more feasible and effective for growers.
Unless specifically exempt or excluded, such as by annual sales volume and/or sales and market channels, sprout growing operations would be subject to the sprout-specific requirements in subpart M. They would also be subject to all other requirements of the rule for produce safety (exceptions are noted) when it becomes final and effective. The final rule is expected to be sent to the Federal Register in late October 2015. Compliance dates vary according to the size of the farm.
The Alliance is:
- developing training materials that facilitate industry understanding and implementation of relevant requirements in the upcoming Standards for Produce Safety
- developing training materials that reflect best practices for the safe production of sprouts
- serving as a network hub and resource for the sprout industry, and federal and state regulatory agencies
- developing a technical assistance network for the sprout industry
- collaborating with the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), states, trade associations, and land-grant university extension services to provide classroom and distance training and workshops for stakeholders across the U.S.
The Alliance’s organizing committee consists of representatives from the FDA, the California Department of Health, and IIT IFSH. The organizing committee selected the Alliance’s steering committee, which includes representatives from academia, state government, industry trade and scientific associations, FDA and IIT IFSH. The steering committee’s role is to decide on the overall strategies of the Alliance, to determine the scope of work and timelines, and to nominate the members of the technical and education/outreach working groups.
The technical working group develops the core curriculum materials. The education/outreach working group’s role is to develop the training program, determine training format/agenda, develop infrastructure for delivery of training/outreach, and arrange and provide trainings.
The Sprout Safety Alliance is modeled on other alliances, including those for seafood, produce and preventive controls established by the FDA and groups representing academia, industry, and government. The Seafood HACCP Alliance was created in 1994, the Produce Safety Alliance in 2010 and the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance in 2011.