Oct 25, 2022
IFPA focuses on Listeria training for Spanish speakers

The International Fresh Produce Association has been approved for a U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety grant to develop Spanish-language listeria produce safety training.

The grant, through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP), if for a project titled “Increasing Peer-to-Peer Training and Technical Capacity through a Listeria Environmental Monitoring Certificate Program for Spanish-speaking Produce Safety Staff.”

FSOP funds 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. The International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA), and its legacy organizations Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association (through whom the grant was originally submitted) have a long history of developing dynamic food safety trainings to meet the technical and regulatory needs of its members. From 2016-19, the two associations trained more than 400 people from 200 companies in their face-to-face Listeria intervention and control workshop.

IFPA will use the $200,000 FSOP grant to develop a virtual Listeria produce safety training and education cohort program in Spanish for operations in the Southern U.S. The project 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,” Jennifer McEntire, chief food safety and regulatory officer at IFPA, and principal investigator for the grant, said in a news release. “Although it came first out of necessity, we quickly recognized the added value of increased accessibility that came from these hybrid, 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 US as well, further enhancing the global mission of IFPA.”

IFPA 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,” Steve Mandernach, executive director of AFDO, said in the release. “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.”

“I’ve worked with many growers, packers, and processors both in the U.S. and Latin America, and I can’t overstate the need for food safety resources available in Spanish-language,” Sergio Nieto-Montenegro, president of Food Safety CTS, said in the release. “Making these training programs accessible for audiences who may not have the time or resources to travel to an in-person workshop, and providing it in their first language will go such a long way in enhancing the food safety culture in these small and medium operations.”

The first year of the project will be dedicated to the development and translation of the training program. IFPA plans to launch the first cohort in the later part of 2023.

 




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