AFFI’s Enteric Viruses Control Program A Food Safety Resource for Frozen Fruit Growers and Manufacturers

An interview with AFFI’s Senior Vice President of Scientific Affairs Dr. Sanjay Gummalla

While we have yet to understand the full impact of the record-breaking heat wave on the Pacific Northwest, growers are estimating substantial losses on blackberries, red raspberries and blueberries. As a result, the U.S. market will likely rely more heavily on imported frozen berries over the next year. As U.S. demand for imported frozen berries increases, it will be critical for all entities across the supply chain to ensure the highest food safety standards are applied from growing to processing and packing. The time is NOW to prevent enteric viruses, especially Hepatitis A, from entering the U.S. marketplace.

Dr. Sanjay Gummalla

AFFI invites buying entities to apply and require food safety standards imparted through AFFI’s Enteric Viruses Control Program. We sat down with AFFI’s Senior Vice President of Scientific Affairs Dr. Sanjay Gummalla to learn how this new program will help growers, processors, and other entities in the frozen food supply chain address risks associated with enteric viruses.

What is the Enteric Viruses Control Program?

AFFI’s Enteric Viruses Control Program represents a comprehensive set of best food safety practices to prevent and control the spread of potential enteric virus contamination in frozen berry production and processing.

It covers practices relevant to farm and facility activities and emphasizes key components of risk management, such as water management, waste management and worker health and hygiene. The program is comprised of more than 50 recommendations related to good agricultural practices (GAPs) and operational activities that are aligned with the food safety objectives of the global berry supply chain. Ultimately, it means improved food safety processes to ensure safe, high quality, and reliable products.

How can this program be used?
The program focuses on key operational areas related to farm and facility practices and processes that present these food safety risks and outlines targeted resources to learn and implement mitigation steps. The program’s recommendations can help growers and processors understand, self-assess, and identify critical areas to implement and improve food safety outcomes. The downloadable resources provide pathways to identify risks and implement systematic processes.

Why was this program developed?
Globally, several outbreaks have been associated with enteric viruses in frozen berries. The EVCP was developed in recognition of a globally diverse berry supply chain with disparate conditions and challenges in production environments and practices. The program brings together a common understanding and set of growing and manufacturing standards. Together, AFFI strongly believes these steps will elevate the industry’s ability to safely produce and process frozen berries.

Who developed this program?
The best practices and recommendations in the EVCP are the culmination of a year-long effort by international food safety professionals from across the food and agriculture sector. In addition, many resources directly linked to the program’s recommendations have been taken from materials and templates previously developed by experts in academia, trade associations, and government agencies, and other food safety entities.

Will AFFI continue to expand the Food Safety Zone website?
Yes. AFFI plans to continuously update the Food Safety Zone with additional resources and year-round education for the control and prevention of enteric viruses and Listeria. It is this level of awareness and education that drives a food safety culture that empowers employees to make critical food safety decisions and take preventive actions to protect consumers and reduce the odds of their companies becoming a recall statistic. Additionally, specific certificate-level courses and training programs will be developed and offered to the industry to build foundational knowledge in these critical food safety areas among their workforce.

To learn more about how you can implement the Enteric Viruses Control Program watch this webinar from July 27, 2021. This members-only recording has been made publicly available as part of AFFI’s mission to advance food safety throughout the frozen food supply chain.

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