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Abstract

U.S. produce growers have faced increased demand for implementing additional food safety practices, prompted by a series of high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks. This report summarizes a series of open-ended discussions with produce growers and reveals the nuanced reasoning behind growers’ actions in response to evolving food safety standards in a complex market. Growers of five commodities in six regions reveal the long history of food safety standards in the industry, including voluntarily implemented standards developed by themselves, commodity organizations, and government agencies as well as those required by some commercial buyers and some States. Growers most confident in their ability to adapt to new food safety regulations—like the “Produce Rule” in the Federal 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act—had two key characteristics in common: a background and culture of food safety at their company and a well-developed food safety information network. Growers agreed that the adoption of food safety standards have been driven largely by commercial buyer requirements. Highly competitive markets force growers to weigh the hard-to-quantify benefits of risk-reducing practices against their significant costs.

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