The increased interest in the consumption of local products, including meat and meat products, has allowed small and very small (SVS) meat processors to gain more visibility in the market. SVS facilities represent >90% of the federally-inspected establishments in the United States. In Kansas, the animal slaughter and meat processing sectors, have an output of $10.9 billion. While some of the SVS facilities in Kansas have been operating for several years, others just recently were established or are expanding their operations. This represents an opportunity and need for standardized education and training approaches for SVS personnel. There are several requirements that meat processing facilities have to comply with especially in regard to food safety programs, this includes a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. Successful food safety programs require commitment and engagement from all personnel of a processing facility and an understanding of their role in food safety. There is a large proportion of the workforce in SVS facilities that are of Latino origin, and thus, providing education and training in their primary language reduces language barriers and increases successful knowledge-transfer. The objective of this project is to provide SVS meat processors with spaces for learning and developing effective and compliant food safety programs, including HACCP plan, microbial testing programs, and other food safety requirements. We will hold food safety lectures in English and Spanish, workshops for designing/adapting HACCP plans, and for adequate practices in microbial testing programs. Additionally, we will carry out initial on-site readiness assessment for SVS plants, as well as final audit-like evaluation for the correct implementation of food safety practices after the lecture/workshops. Written assessments will be collected before and after each lecture and workshop. All the data obtained and results generated will be shared through extension briefs, peer-reviewed manuscripts and poster presentations at a conference. We anticipate that increasing the knowledge and skills of SVS facilities in terms of food safety and regulatory requirements will increase their engagement and commitment to following adequate food safety practices. Moreover, we expect that providing educational programs in Spanish to the SVS workforce will ease the transfer of knowledge to Spanish speakers and increase their sense of belonging and commitment to food safety. Through the improvement of food safety programs, SVS will be supporting the reduction of food insecurity, the incidence of foodborne outbreaks, increasing their market potential and visibility for customers.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Meat processors will learn about the differences among regulatory requirements (state and federal), HACCP requirements and third-party audits schemes.
- Meat processors will learn how to develop/adapt, implement and manage their own HACCP plans.
- Meat processors will understand how to reassess and modify their food safety programs when necessary due to modifications in their products or processes, or due to requirements.
- Meat processors will learn how to effectively design and implement verification and validation programs.
- Meat processors will be guided through microbial testing programs, including appropriate sample collection practices, transport, and processing of samples.
- Initial on-site assessments of the SVS processing plants’ readiness for compliance with regulatory requirements and implementation of the HACCP plan.
- A food safety lecture series about food safety requirements.
- A hands-on workshop to a) Carry out preliminary tasks for their HACCP plan, and b) Develop/adapt individual HACCP programs specific to their processing facility.
- A laboratory workshop to conduct appropriate and effective microbial sample collection and testing procedures.
- Follow-up on-site visit to the SVS meat processors to evaluate the correct implementation of the food safety programs and HACCP plans developed during the workshops.
- Increased compliance with state and federal requirements and potential status for third-party certifications.
- Increased engagement and sense of belonging by receiving training and education in their primary language (for English/Spanish-speakers).
- Broadening SVS processors’ opportunities to access bigger markets (e.g. interstate) that require specific programs and certifications.
- Strengthened relationship between Kansas State University and SVS processors.