An Integrated Approach to Understanding Food Safety Practices and Attitudes Among Local Food Systems Actors
Interest in preventing and controlling food safety risks has exploded in recent years as incidents involving contaminated produce and other foods have been widely reported. Consumer concern about food safety contributes to increased regulatory oversight and development of dubious food safety metrics among industry buyers designed mostly for large scale farms. At the same time, the local foods movement has prompted the expansion of the fresh produce industry with small and medium scale produce farmers selling direct to their customers via farmers’ markets (FMs). With this growth there is a need to understand the policies established by FMs to guide practices of their vendors and provide consistent food safety criteria. This research is timely in supporting market managers, while addressing consumer and grower concerns of proposed new food safety standards. The short term outcomes are improved context specific knowledge of food safety practices, roles, and attitudes among NC Region (NCR) local food system actors. Using a multi-method research design the research will identify testable, scale appropriate practices among NCR growers to provide a base of knowledge to investigate the effectiveness of food safety practices on these farms. New knowledge will be generated of FM managers’ perceived and actual roles in ensuring food safety, as well as needs for implementing programs. Surveys of consumers will assess acceptance of a scaled approach to food safety. The intermediate term outcomes are research based knowledge of grower practices to inform and influence food safety recommendations. The research will also result in increased preparedness of FM managers in the NCR and pilot food safety programs, as well as greater confidence in consumer acceptance for scaled approaches to food safety. These outcomes will help ensure that all farms have access to scale appropriate food safety recommendations. Providing alternatives to a one-size-fits-all food safety standard will help to maintain small and medium scale farms on the landscape, as well as assure consumers that they provide verifiably safe foods.
- Increased understanding of consumer food safety attitudes and a scaled approach to food safety;
- Research-based knowledge of food safety practices of NCR small and medium growers and identification of new testable, scale appropriate practices of these growers;
- Increased knowledge of the perceived and actual roles of farmers’ markets in ensuring food safety; and,
- Identification of food safety information needs of farmers’ market managers.
- Submitted Market Manager Interview protocol to Institutional Review Board.
- Added additional support to project including Gerri Isaacson and Roger Downer.
- Completed Market Manager Interviews:
- Finalized the market manager interview guide and accompanying materials related to recruitment and process per recommendations of the Institutional Review Board.
- Further refinement list of NCR Markets and Managers to identify market managers in each of the states using criteria of urban and rural, new and old, large and small markets.
- Received approval for the Final Market Manager Interview Guide and Process from both Ohio State University and University of Vermont Institutional Review Boards (the UVM review was necessary for the participation of one of the co-PIs) after several months of review and revisions.
- Recruited 35 Market Managers to participate in the study; 30 Market Managers completed the study.
- Preliminary report on the data analysis prepared.
- Data coding and analysis currently being conducted.
- Completed the on-farm audit materials and protocol:
- Developed on-farm audit materials including incorporating the Cornell GAPs self-assessment tool with data collection binders and instructions for the self-assessment protocol and follow-up interviews.
- Finalized farmer recruitment letters.
- Submitted the farm audit materials and follow-up interview protocol to Institutional Review Board for human subjects review.
- Development of guidelines for a grant competition to support food safety programs at farmers’ markets
- Design of a farmers market produce farmer survey
- Preparation farmers market produce farmer survey protocol for submission to Institutional Review Board for human subjects review.
2015 Plan of Work Identified:
- Complete the analysis of market manager interviews
- Submission of on-farm audits (using self-assessment materials) protocol to Institutional Review Board
- Completion of on-farm audits and follow-up interviews
- Analysis of on-farm audit findings and follow-up interviews
- Completion of on-farm self-assessments
- Administration of development of guidelines for a grant competition to support food safety programs at farmers’ markets.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Farmers’ market managers’ perceived and actual roles in ensuring food safety will be clarified. This includes providing evidence of their attitudes and perceptions as they apply to how well they feel GAPs are working, how much control they feel they have over food safety, and other beliefs that impact the effectiveness of food safety at the direct market level. These data were used to develop the on-farm self-audit materials and follow-up interview protocol, provide questions for the farmers’ market produce grower survey, and shaped the development of the farmers’ market pilot food safety program small grant competition.
The on-farm audits will assess and identify produce grower perceptions of the current Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and self-assessment materials. It will further identify currently unverified practices used by these farmers that may help ensure fresh produce safety. These data will provide us information to assist in understanding produce farmer needs for implementing produce safety educational programs related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). These data will be used to finalize the farmers’ market produce grower survey.
The Ohio State University
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