Training Extension agents in Kentucky and Oklahoma on the Food Safety Modernization Act and food safety, sanitation, and good hygiene practices related to products for sale at farmers market

Project Overview

ES16-130
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $78,166.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Kentucky
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Paul Priyesh Vijayakumar
University of Kentucky

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, potatoes, sorghum (milo)
  • Fruits: apples, apricots, berries (other), berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), cherries, grapes, melons, peaches, pears, plums, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: bees
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms

Practices

  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Abstract:

    Original timeline has been adjusted based on several variables. Year 1 has been spent engaging with stakeholders around the state and has resulted in this project becoming integrated with existing food safety programs. The project team held a stakeholder meeting in September 2016, bringing together grower leaders, extension agents, specialists, state government, and community market members to discuss the needs for a new produce food safety  curriculum. We have kept our advisory council informed through the duration of the project. Our initial meetings were highly productive, and have spurred deeper collaboration between the project team and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture as well as the Kentucky Department of Health. The resultant new updated curriculum developed through this project will now be the official statewide food safety curriculum for all growers offering raw samples at market. This curriculum replaces an outdated predecessor and will be introduced according to the timeline below:

    Spring 2017: New curriculum is first introduced

    January 1, 2018: Old curriculum is no longer offered, though old curriculum is still recognized by KDA.

    January 1, 2020: Old curriculum no longer recognized by KDA, all producers must have new training.

    These collaborations have been very fruitful, and the timeline above integrates our project into existing structures that will amplify its message and success. However, this process has also taken considerable time. Due to some restructuring at the department of health, we have delayed the baseline survey of health inspectors until Summer 2017. Based on feedback from our advisory committee, the project team adapted and revamped existing curricula and developed new video resources during fall and winter of 2016. We also circulated a survey of all extension agents to solicit their opinions about the updating of this curriculum, and integrated their information into our plan. This curriculum went through review by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, as well as specialists at the Universities of Kentucky and Oklahoma in early 2017. The first in-person train-the-trainer agent training was hosted in western Kentucky in early April 2017. The training was well-received. As of late April 2017, we have at least 1 train-the-trainer scheduled in each of Kentucky’s seven extension districts. Upon completion of this curriculum, agents will be authorized to deliver the new food safety curriculum to their producers effective immediately.  We anticipate most agent-led trainings will start in fall 2017 and spring 2018. 

    The adjusted timeline we have followed will allow for longer-term success and impact of this program. 

    Project objectives:

    Specific objectives of the training program are to increase knowledge, confidence and the skill set of Extension agents in teaching topics of high priority such as,
    • Food microbiology overview and pathogens of concern
    • Basic food handler hygiene (hand washing and toilet use)
    • Food types and associated food safety risks
    • High risk food (ready-to-eat)
    • Hot and cold food (cooking and storage temperature requirements)
    • Cross contamination
    • Sanitation (utensils and food contact surfaces)
    • Food sampling
    • General food safety regulations outlined by local and state health departments, and
    • Overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and its transitional impacts.

    These specific training objectives will be accomplished through interactive slide presentations, demonstrations, case studies, and question and answer and breakout sessions (with individual and group activities).

    Short-term outcomes will include enhanced knowledge and skill set (demonstrated during
    interactive train-the-trainer sessions) of Extension agents (around 150 in KY and 140 in
    Oklahoma) on food safety, hygiene and sanitation practices related to farmers’ markets. In order to ensure enhancement of knowledge, agents will be required to be present during the entire length of the training program (mandatory attendance) to be eligible to take the post-test, and should obtain at least a 70% in the post-test to receive a certificate of course completion. Trainees who do not obtain 70% will be given a second chance to complete the test after a brief tutorial on specific parts of the curriculum they have problem with. To ensure enhanced skill set on food safety and hygiene practices, agents will need to demonstrate practices they were taught during the course of the training program such as proper hand washing procedure and cleaning and sanitizing of facility or equipment (change of practice).

    Workshops and listening sessions conducted by trained and skilled Extension agents will change the safety practices, food handling approach and behaviors of farmers’ market managers, and their employees (intermediate outcomes) who in turn will affect a change in the farmers’ market vendors and their employees. Such change of behavior will be clearly evident and directly observed by health inspectors in farmers’ markets (change of practice). Behavior changes will result in a local food system that is safe, healthy, and less prone to food-borne illness (longterm outcome). The ultimate beneficiaries (farmers, farmers’ market vendors, and their employees) will also be able to answer consumer’s questions on food safety and sanitation practices connected to their products and operations, eventually increasing consumer confidence in local food products. This increase in consumer confidence will be measured by increased sampling certification, increase in retail sales of local foods, and number of (Good Agricultural Practices) GAP certified farmers/ cooperatives , increase in homebased processor, microprocessors, and commercial food processors. The notion “Know Your Farmer, Know You’re Safe, Enjoy Quality Food” will be promoted. Increased consumer confidence will contribute to the economic viability of local food systems.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.