The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) announced that it is one of 28 recipients of a USDA NIFA 2022 grant through the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP). IFPA will use the FSOP grant to develop a virtual Listeria product safety training and education program in Spanish, targeting small and medium-sized farms and produce operations in the southern United States.
FSOP funding is dedicated to delivering customized training for owners and operators of small to mid-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.
“I’ve worked with many growers, packers, and processors both in the US and Latin America, and I can’t overstate the need for food safety resources available in Spanish language,” said Sergio Nieto-Montenegro, President of Food Safety CTS. “Making these training programs accessible for audiences who may not have the time or resources to travel to an in-person workshop and provide it in their first language will go a long way in enhancing the food safety culture in these small and medium operations.”
IFPA and its legacy organizations, the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association (through whom the grant was originally submitted), have a long history of developing dynamic food safety training to meet its members’ technical and regulatory needs. From 2016-2019, the two associations trained over 400 people from 200 companies in their face-to-face Listeria intervention and control workshop, the association shared in a press release.
The project titled “Increasing Peer-to-Peer Training and Technical Capacity through a Listeria Environmental Monitoring Certificate Program for Spanish-speaking Produce Safety Staff” will build on IFPA’s newly piloted 8-week hybrid, live online Listeria training certificate program, originally created during the pandemic to provide high-quality, engaging training experiences during a time when travel was not a possibility.
“It has been exciting to see our training programs evolve,” said Jennifer McEntire, Chief Food Safety and Regulatory Officer at IFPA and principal investigator for the grant. “Although it came first out of necessity, we quickly recognized the added value of increased accessibility that came from these hybrids, virtual trainings. Not only will the FSOP grant help us develop training materials to better reach underserved populations in the Southeast, but its translation into Spanish will facilitate future adaptations for audiences outside of the U.S. as well, further enhancing the global mission of IFPA.”
The association will partner with Food Safety Consulting and Training Solutions (Food Safety CTS) and the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) as collaborators on the FSOP grant.
“AFDO has been actively engaged in produce safety initiatives for many years. Regardless of whether an operation is covered under the Produce Safety Rule or the Preventive Controls Rule, Listeria management and environmental monitoring is a fundamental practice to help produce operations understand and manage their risk,” said Steve Mandernach, Executive Director of AFDO. “The FSOP funding opportunity aligns perfectly with the prevention-focused training needs for the industry. Focusing in a region that represents diverse produce operations will ensure the program is applicable to farms and facilities of all sizes and commodities.”
The first year of the project will be dedicated to developing and translating the training program. IFPA plans to launch the first cohort in the latter part of 2023.