Northeast Produce Produce News

Penn State Extension Delivers Bilingual Produce Safety Programs

Penn State produce
Maria Gorgo, Penn State commercial horticulture extension educator, teaching farm food safety in Spanish to Hispanic horticulturalists at the Fruit Research Extension Center in Adams County, Pennsylvania.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, educators from the Penn State Extension Food Safety and Horticulture teams developed bilingual produce safety educational materials and delivered trainings to Latino fresh-produce growers and farmworkers in Pennsylvania.

“In this pilot project, Penn State Extension educators worked closely with Latino farmers and farmworkers to identify training needs within the community and developed high-impact bilingual food safety training programming,” said project leader Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, commercial horticulture extension educator.” The goal was to develop a suite of educational materials in English and Spanish and deliver bilingual trainings to address the language barrier for successful implementation of farm food safety practices, including some of the concepts covered by the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Food Safety Rule. We also wanted to help food safety managers who attended Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule training to communicate the knowledge to others on the farm.”

While the U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, Congress entrusted the Food and Drug Administration to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This new law changed the food safety system from one that responds to contamination to one that prevents it in the first place.

Among the suite of new regulations issued under the law is “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption,” commonly known as the “Produce Safety Rule.” This rule poses new regulatory challenges to the fresh-produce industry in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Latino growers and farmworkers had an unmet need for accessible food safety and good agricultural practices (GAP) information, education and resources. To provide short, easy-to-understand information, Extension focused its educational materials and trainings on topics such as personal hygiene, microorganisms and sources of contamination during, before and after harvest.

The team began by collecting, assessing and archiving pre-existing educational materials related to FSMA and farm food safety education available at the Penn State Extension website. The educators identified gaps in programming in regard to content and methodology.

As a result, 10 articles and two fact sheets were translated. The team reviewed and updated Extension’s Food Safety Training Kit and GAP posters to match new Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) curricula and created a catalogue of available information in English and Spanish.

With support from stakeholders, the educators determined where the greatest needs in programming were and then developed new educational materials and workshops specific to various industry groups.

The team created a number of new and innovative food safety outreach, education and training programs in English and Spanish, including 11 trainings and professional development with a total of 24 presentations.

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