University of Florida researcher Mark Ritenour kicked off the Florida Citrus Show in Fort Pierce on January 25 with an overview of new federal regulations with which fresh fruit growers must comply, starting with large producers in two years. The regulations are part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Water that is likely to contact fruit is a key focus. Water sampling for bacteria is required. The researcher said it’s still uncertain whether water provided to trees by microsprinklers is considered to be contacting fruit. Most Florida growers irrigate with microsprinklers.
Food safety training for employees and record keeping of compliance efforts is required. The University of Florida is providing training to help with the fresh fruit safety requirements.
Florida growers were concerned the food safety rules might exclude wildlife and other animals from groves, but ultimately did not.
Responding to a question from the crowd, Ritenour confirmed that fresh Florida citrus packers have never been cited for food-safety issues. He noted that Indian River-area packers, who export much grapefruit, have been working on food safety issues for years. Some food safety requirements have been imposed by international and domestic fruit buyers.