Fresh produce safety is the focus of a pilot cantaloupe program being offered by North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The two-pronged education and outreach program will consist of a seminar in the classroom and voluntary assessment on the farm.

The goal is to help cantaloupe producers and packers develop strategies for reducing the risk of food contamination and for handling such incidents if they occur.

Free seminars take place April 10 at the Cunningham/Lower Coastal Plain Research Station in Kinston and April 23 at the Davidson County Center in Lexington. Both sessions will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The seminars will include lunch and refreshments, sponsored by North Carolina Farm Bureau and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, respectively. Registration is required by April 3. Register online at www.ncmhtd.com/NCCantaloupe.

The program will cover a variety of food safety topics specifically for cantaloupe producers, including sanitation, water, equipment, environmental sampling and validation, as well as recovery and restoration strategies after a food contamination event.

The on-farm outreach portion is voluntary and will provide an assessment of the farming operation to help identify potential concerns with regard to future federal food safety rules and regulations.

For more information about the cantaloupe program, contact Kristen Baughman at 919-733-7366 or kristen.baughman@ncagr.gov.

(Early last year NCSU introduced portable hand washing stations designed to improve produce safety. Details and design features are found at Hand-washing stations help farmers reduce food safety risks).