(UPDATED COVERAGE, June 27) Four months into its $100,000 year-long federal grant, the Sprout Safety Alliance has a website and is recruiting people to help develop best practices materials for sprout growers.

“The steering committee met May 30 and 31 to set the strategy,” said Stephen Grove, alliance coordinator. “The website is collecting quite a bit of interest and we are getting people contacting us wanting to be on the working groups.”

Sprout Safety Alliance launches websiteGrove said the technical working group meets every other week via conference calls. It continues to accept members. For the next few months it will collect and evaluate existing materials to determine if any new best practices need to be developed for sprout growers, seed suppliers, testing labs, retailers and state health and agricultural departments.

The education-outreach working group is accepting members. Grove said it is compiling a list of extension specialists who could be trainers. Grove said the goal is to do some beta testing of the materials and training programs by February, which will mark the end of the year-long federal grant for the alliance.

“We are working on budget justifications to continue work into a second year,” Grove said. “We plan to work with the International Sprout Growers Association to hopefully present information at their annual meeting in late August.”

Food and Drug Administration officials created the alliance in February, saying it is similar to the agency’s other public-private alliances for seafood, juice, produce and preventive controls. FDA created the Produce Safety Alliance in 2010 and the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance in 2011.

The Sprout Safety Alliance is based at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health where Grove is a research assistant professor of microbiology. His expertise includes fresh and fresh-cut produce safety and cross-contamination during fresh produce washing and foodservice procedures.

FDA appointed three other “organizing members” to define the structure and goals of the alliance. They are: Joy Johanson, consumer safety officer for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Tong-Jen Fu, research scientist from CFSAN; and Jane Reick, food safety inspection unit chief for the California Department of Public Health.