Development of an Education and Outreach Program to Assist Fresh Produce Growers with Meeting Food Safety Requirements
Dr. Melanie Lewis Ivey, Dr. Sanja Ilic, Ivory Harlow and members of the fruit and vegetable safety team were awarded a OSU Conenct and Collaborate grant to develop food safety plan writing workshops and on-farm audit readiness programming for growers in Ohio and bordering counties in West Virginia and Kentucky. In addition pre-harvest food safety knowledge and awareness training for new and underserved produce growers in the community wil be delivered. Project partners include The Wallace Center, North Central Region Center for FSMA Training, Extension, and Technical Service (NCRFSE), National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association (OEFFA), The Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC)-Outlying Branches, and The Ohio State University’s Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT). For more information on the project contact Dr. Lewis Ivey or Dr. Sanja Ilic.
Fresh produce is the leading cause of foodborne illnesses in the country and Ohio growers must meet federal food safety standards to ensure that their produce is safe. Understanding regulatory requirements, awareness of safe agricultural practices, and developing and following written food safety plans (FSP) are critical steps toward minimizing the risk of on farm produce contamination. OSU lags behind other land grant universities in providing fresh produce safety education and training programs. In addition, stakeholder awareness of fresh produce safety programming available at OSU is low compared to their awareness of programming in other states. We have formed a team of Food Safety State Specialists, Extension educators, and community organizations to provide a diverse group of Ohio growers with the tools and resources needed to supply consumers with a safe product. To address these needs, we will provide: i) pre-harvest food safety knowledge and awareness training to new and underserved produce growers in the community; ii) farm food safety plan writing workshops and on-farm audit readiness programs; and iii) a roadmap for an OSU food safety training program for FSMA equivalence. In order to achieve our goal in improving fresh produce safety and sustaining the fresh produce industry, we will form a fresh produce safety education and training cooperative with participating food safety experts from Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.