Mock Food Safety Audit Workshop is Aug. 26

August 8th, 2014

Specialty crop growers interested in food safety certification and risk management for their farms should plan to attend a Mock GAP Audit Workshop Aug. 26, 1-4 p.m. at Feed Iowa First packinghouse, 1506 10th St SE, Cedar Rapids.


Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is hosting the three-hour workshop to provide growers with a better understanding of the auditing process for GAP — Good Agricultural Practices –  certification. Participants will tour a new packing shed in an unused commercial building as well as an urban garden space. They will discuss harvest protocols with volunteer labor, review the basics of a farm food safety plan, observe how a farm food safety plan has been implemented, and review the USDA GAP/GHP Audit Checklist and learn how to apply it to their farm setting.


The program is funded through a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.


The key instructors will be ISU Extension and Outreach specialists Angela Shaw and Teresa Wiemerslage. The fee for the workshop is $20 per participant and registration is online at For more information, please contact Angela Shaw at 515-294-0868 or email at


Download a flyer.

Download a map to the location. 


Here is a recent news story on Feed Iowa First. 

Audits, Workshops

Iowa GAP Workshops Scheduled

August 8th, 2014

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will conduct Level 1 and Level 2 GAP Workshops for fruit and vegetable producers in the Fall 2014 and Spring of 2015.
These one-day workshops are important for growers who want to better understand how GAPs can be used to meet buyers’ food safety requirements.


The training will provide assistance in writing  and implementing GAPs for  those  interested in  both wholesale  and direct marketing. The key instructors will be Dr. Angela Shaw, Dr. Catherine Strohbehn, and Linda Naeve.


Topics for Level 1 include: basics of GAP, bacterial concerns, water quality issues, composting and pest control. Topics for level 2 include:  marketing considerations and writing a food safety plan.

The workshop schedule for 2014 is shown below. Workshops begin at 9:00am and end at 4:00pm. Register by mail or online.

Click here to register online.

Download a flyer.
Date         Level    Location                                                                                                                                   Reg. Deadline
Oct. 4       1            Warren County Extension Office                                                                                       Sept. 24
Oct. 18     2            Warren County Extension Office                                                                                       Oct 8
Nov. 19    1            Woodbury County Extension Office                                                                                  Nov. 9
Nov. 25    2           Woodbury County Extension Office                                                                                  Nov. 15
Feb. 12     1            ISU Armstrong Research Farm/Wallace Foundation                                                   Feb. 2
Feb. 17     1            Iowa Lakes Community College- Spencer Campus                                                        Feb. 7
Feb. 18    2            ISU Armstrong Research Farm/Wallace Foundation                                                   Feb. 8
Feb. 24    2            Iowa Lakes Community College- Spencer Campus                                                       Feb. 4

The workshops are made possible through a grant funded by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.


Food Safety Tips for Food Event Volunteers

June 3rd, 2014

ISU Extension and Outreach has released a new publication just in time for the summer food festivals and events.  “Food Safety Tips for Food Event Volunteers- SP452 May 14” provides tips for those working at events and covers food safety basics that are critical when handling food to prevent occurrences of food-borne illness.


Volunteers provide critical manpower for many community events.  Some events may utilize 4-H’ers and their family members at county fair food stands.  In other communities, volunteers will be serving food along the RAGBRAI routes, parade routes, farm tours and community celebrations.


This publication can be a great tool to provide a brief training before the actual event to foster communication about procedures that everyone needs to follow.  But remember, not only is essential to have the correct information, but it is equally important to have the equipment to carry out the procedures, like calibrated thermometers, gloves, deli sheets, tongs, scoops, etc.   Happy Eating!

Employee Training

Food Safety Q&A Webinars Planned

May 21st, 2014

Food safety specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach are offering six online sessions to answer food safety questions from educators, consumers and others who want to keep food safe this summer.


The one-hour sessions will begin at noon Central Daylight Time:

  • May 23
  • June 4
  • June 20
  • July 2
  • July 18
  • Aug. 22


To participate, go to slightly before each session begins and log in as a guest.


“When you log in, you’ll be able to type your food safety questions into the chat box and the Iowa State specialists will answer the questions during the live session,” said Angela Shaw, assistant professor and extension specialist in food safety, who will lead the discussions.


Questions also can be emailed to Shaw before each session at; type “food safety Q&A” in the subject line.


Training Videos for School Gardens

May 20th, 2014

School gardens can be important elements of student learning about the food they eat, and food safety in the garden is an important lesson.


To help teachers and school garden coordinators with food safety training for students, ISU Extension and Outreach has created an online training course.  Short videos of young gardeners demonstrate safe food production handling through the identification of biological, physical, and chemical hazards within the garden.


Through the videos, participants will learn different prevention strategies to reduce risks from occurring. Quizzes will be given at the end of each section of the video to test student knowledge on each area of produce food safety.


Additional activities and case studies are provided on the website to assist with further identifying hazards associated with fresh produce. A resource manual is also available on the website to guide the instructors of school gardens on more in-depth information.

Employee Training, Webinars

Managing GAP and Organic Certifications

May 19th, 2014

Are you an organic grower managing NOP certification as well as GAPs audits? The team at New Mexico State University has developed an informative website to aid in the dynamic management of organic system plans and Good Agricultural Practices. No need to duplicate the paperwork effort – there are lots of helpful hints to share!


For additional information, contact Nancy Flores (

Audits, Food Safety Plans

HACCP Short-course for Non-Meat Industries

March 26th, 2014

April 17th-19th, 2014
Iowa State University
Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Department of Animal Science
Early registration ends April 3 and final registration ends April 11
What: This three day Basic HACCP training is designed for people in the food industry desiring to understand and be trained in the HACCP system for manufacturing safe food. This is also for individuals who are starting to develop or implement HACCP plans and those who want to review the concepts and applications of HACCP or desire an updated understanding of the system.

Who: Participants include food processing managers and technicians, quality control, assurance, sanitation.  Participants also include growers wanting to further process products and restaurants wanting to bottle or package a recipe.  This course will be presented in a manner that will serve participants who ARE or WANT to produce and process food.  The emphasis will be placed on non-meat commodity groups with an emphasis on FDA regulations.



This course will address food safety concerns for industries such as: canning, frozen meals, spices/bulk ingredients, cereals/pastas, fresh produce, dairy ingredients, bakery/snack foods, and food service (variance) along with an Advanced HACCP group.

Why: FDA and USDA require workers in several segments of the food industry to be trained in HACCP. This course is accredited by the International HACCP Alliance and will meet the specifications established by these federal agencies.

You Get: This course is accredited by the HACCP Alliance as meeting the required standards for content and training for introductory HACCP. Upon successful completion of the course, the attendee will be registered with the International HACCP Alliance and recognized as completing a HACCP training program. In addition, within small working groups, the attendees will actually develop a HACCP plan and present it to the class for discussion and critique.


Registration is first come basis with early registration fee of $325.


Thursday, April 17: Registration: 12 p.m.; Workshop: 1 p.m.–6 p.m.
Friday, April 18: Continental Breakfast: 7:30 a.m.; Workshop: 8 a.m.–5:45 p.m.
Saturday, April 19: HACCP Exam: 8 a.m.; Workshop: 8:45 a.m.–11:30 a.m


This course is sponsored by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition and the Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals.

Food Safety Plans, Workshops

Update: Cantaloupe growers sentenced

February 1st, 2014

A federal judge in Denver sentenced Eric and Ryan Jensen each to six months of home detention and five years probation for selling listeria contaminated cantaloupe in 2011 that killed 33 and sickened 147 people in 28 states.


The brothers, who owned and operated Jensen Farms, Granada, Colo., each pleaded guilty last year to six federal misdemeanors of introducing an adulterated food into interstate commerce.


They could have faced up to six years in prison and each been fined $1.5 million. “No fine is imposed because the defendants have no ability to pay a fine,” according to the sentencing order from Magistrate Judge Michael E. Hegarty. However, the judge ordered each brother to pay restitution of $150,000 — $25,000 for each count. That money will go directly to victims, according to the U.S. Attorney in Denver. The Jensens argued the judge should not order restitution because they may be found liable for damages in civil cases filed by victims.


“Accordingly, the court should find that restitution should not be ordered in this case but left to civil actions already in progress,” the brothers’ probation request states.


The Jensens are the first growers to face criminal charges in such a case, but other growers could be in similar situations in the future, based on a comment from Spencer Morrison, the Food and Drug Administration’s acting special agent in charge of the agency’s criminal investigation.



Source:, 01/28/2014.


10 of the Biggest U.S. Outbreaks in 2013

January 2nd, 2014

Food Safety News has compiled their list of 10 of the biggest U.S. outbreaks in 2013.  These outbreaks are an opportunity for learning about the times when things go wrong.  It also helps you identify preventative strategies for your farm.  Be sure to visit their page for the story link for each point.

10. E. coli O157:H7 from Glass Onion chicken salads, 33 sick. Trader Joe’s customers in four states fell ill after eating one of two pre-made salad products from Glass Onion Catering: the Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken or the Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken. At least seven people were hospitalized, with two developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections.

9. Salmonella from Hacienda Don Villo in Channahon, IL, 35 sick. Health investigators traced 35 Salmonella illnesses back to this Mexican restaurant in Grundy County, but they could never pinpoint the exact food source. At least one person was hospitalized, and one employee was among those who tested positive for Salmonella.

8. E. coli O121 from frozen Farm Rich foods, 35 sick. Prompting a large recall of frozen mini pizza slices, cheeseburgers and quesadillas, this outbreak sickened predominantly minors across 19 states. Of those confirmed ill, 82 percent were 21 years of age or younger. Nine were hospitalized. The company recalled all products created at one Georgia plant between June 2011 and March 2013.

7. Salmonella from imported cucumbers, 84 sick. Investigators eventually traced this outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul back to cucumbers imported from Mexico. Of those confirmed ill, 17 were hospitalized. The importers were barred from bringing more products into the U.S. until they could prove the products were not contaminated.

6. E. coli O157:H7 from Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park, AZ, 94 sick. Investigators have implicated lettuce served at the restaurant as the likely source of the E. coli, but no other restaurants in the area had cases connected to them. The lettuce may have been cross-contaminated from another food at the restaurant, or the restaurant may have received a highly contaminated batch. Two victims developed HUS as a result of their infections.

5. Salmonella from Foster Farms chicken, 134 sick. The first of two Foster Farms outbreaks in 2013 hit Washington and Oregon the hardest, but then spread out across 13 states. At least 33 people were hospitalized, with infections likely resulting from cross-contamination or undercooking of highly contaminated raw chicken. Foster Farms has not issued a recall for either of the two major outbreaks caused by chicken it produced this year.

4. Hepatitis A from Townsend Farms frozen organic berries, 162 sick. At least 71 people were hospitalized after eating an organic berry mix purchased at Costco stores in the Southwest. The exact source of the outbreak was eventually traced back to pomegranate seeds from Turkey which were contained within the mix.

3. Salmonella from dining at Firefly restaurant in Las Vegas, NV, 294 sick. Patrons of this popular Las Vegas tapas restaurant fell ill after dining within a five-day stretch in April. The owners ultimately closed up shop and re-opened the restaurant in a new location.

2. Salmonella from Foster Farms chicken, 416 sick. While this outbreak appears to be ongoing, hundreds of individuals have fallen ill over the course of the year in connection with raw chicken processed at Foster Farms facilities in California. At least 162 people have been hospitalized after likely undercooking the contaminated raw chicken or handling it in a way that lead to accidental cross-contamination. Foster Farms has refused to issue a recall, and cases continue to appear as recently as early December.

1. Cyclospora from salads and cilantro, 631 sick. The outbreak of this foodborne parasite also takes the title for most confusing, as it appeared to be two separate Cyclospora outbreaks working in tandem. One set of patients – predominantly from Iowa and Nebraska – clearly appeared to be connected to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants (both owned by Darden Restaurants), while, just weeks later, patients in Texas began cropping up with no apparent connection to those restaurants. The Darden illnesses were tentatively traced to lettuce supplier Taylor Farms de Mexico, but no contamination could be found at the farms. Meanwhile, many of the Texas illnesses seemed to implicate fresh cilantro grown in Puebla, Mexico. [CDC outbreak information]


Statement from FDA on Key Provisions of the Proposed FSMA Rules

December 20th, 2013

From FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, Michael Taylor, 12/19/13. 


FDA appreciates and takes very seriously the extensive input we have received from produce farmers and others in the agricultural sector on the proposed FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules on produce safety and preventive controls for human food, which we published in January 2013. We have made every effort to solicit input on the proposed rules, not only through the standard rule-making process, but also by participating in more than 150 meetings and by traveling to numerous farms of varying types and sizes from Maine to California. To ensure broad input and facilitate constructive dialogue with the produce community, FDA has extended the comment periods on the proposed rules three times.

Based on our discussions with farmers, the research community and other input we have received, we have learned a great deal, and our thinking has evolved. Everyone shares the goal of ensuring produce safety, but, as we said at the beginning of the process, the new safety standards must be flexible enough to accommodate reasonably the great diversity of the produce sector, and they must be practical to implement.

To achieve this goal, we believe that significant changes will be needed in key provisions of the two proposed rules affecting small and large farmers. These provisions include water quality standards and testing, standards for using raw manure and compost, certain provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, and procedures for withdrawing the qualified exemption for certain farms. We have heard the concern that these provisions, as proposed, would not fully achieve our goal of implementing the law in a way that improves public health protections while minimizing undue burden on farmers and other food producers.

Because the changes to the key provisions would be significant, FDA plans to propose revised rule language and seek comment on it, allowing the public the opportunity to provide input on our new thinking. There may be other revisions to the proposed rules; the scope of the revised proposals, on which we will seek further comment, will be determined after we complete our initial review of written comments. We believe that this additional step to seek further input on revised sections of the proposed rules that need significant adjustment is critical to fulfilling our continuing commitment to getting these rules right.

Our plan is to publish revised proposed rule language by early summer 2014. We will accept additional comments only on those sections of the proposed rules that have been revised. FDA remains under a court order regarding the timelines for finalizing these rules. FDA recognizes that completing these rules is essential to protecting the public health and is committed to completing them as quickly as possible.

It is gratifying to FDA that in our meetings around the country, we have received broad support for moving forward in implementing FSMA in a timely manner in light of its important food safety and public confidence goals. Thanks to all of you who have worked with us. We will continue this collaborative approach as we move down the pathway to final rules and to full implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in the years to come.