OLATHE, Kan. — Kansas State University is teaming with the University of Missouri and other organizations to host several half- and full-day training workshops focused on food safety for fruit and vegetable growers in Kansas and Missouri.
Because some produce is not cooked before eating, it is essential that growers and anyone handling fresh fruit and vegetables along the grower-to-consumer chain use the best practices possible to ensure safety, said Londa Nwadike, consumer food safety specialist with K-State Research and Extension and the University of Missouri. She cited outbreaks of Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli linked to produce which have sickened and in some cases killed people.
In response to such produce-related food safety outbreaks, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011. The law takes aim at proactively working to prevent contamination in the U.S. food supply rather than responding to contamination occurrences after the fact.
The half-day “Introduction to Produce Safety” workshops are an abbreviated training to help producers avoid contamination. Those interested in volunteering for an on-farm assessment of their operation can attend the workshop for free and earn $100. All farms attending the workshops can have their farm’s water tested for free. These workshops and assessments are funded by a Food Safety Outreach Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“Normally, a food safety consultant would charge at least $100 an hour to perform an on-farm assessment,” said Cal Jamerson, K-State extension associate in produce safety, noting that in this case, workshop participants get the training for free, but can earn $100 by volunteering to have their farm assessed, including free water testing. Attendees do not, however, have to participate in the assessments to come to the workshop.
Jamerson was recently hired through a Kansas Department of Agriculture grant to work with produce growers on food safety across Kansas. Prior to his role at K-State working with Nwadike, he was the food safety manager for his family’s produce farm in Fort Myers, Florida and served in the U.S. Air Force from 2004-2008.
The half-day workshops – all in November in several locations in Kansas (Ft. Scott, Wichita, Colby, Olathe) and one in Missouri (Independence) – are sponsored by K-State, University of Missouri, Lincoln University, the Kansas Beginning Farmers Coalition, Kansas Farmers Union, and the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
Separate full-day trainings are planned in several locations in Missouri and Kansas, currently from October through March, which will meet the training requirements of the FSMA. They are sponsored by the same groups as above, as well as the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
More information, including online registration, on both the half- and full-day trainings is available at http://www.ksre.k-state.edu/foodsafety/produce/ or by contacting Jamerson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-307-7394.
— Mary Lou Peter, K-State Research and Extension