Colorado Produce Safety Collaborative: Regionally Adapted Training and Outreach

Added by Adrian Card • Last updated June 3, 2024
Author: Adrian Card
Type: Project (Food Safety Outreach Program - FSOP)

Colorado produce growers know that improper production and handling of fruits and vegetables can lead to microbiological contamination that can pose human health risks, yet recent survey responses from 325 Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule training graduates showed that only 43% have a written food safety plan. However, according to a Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers survey, 85% felt that food safety was important while only 55% felt that having a written food safety plan was important. Given that one of the deadliest foodborne illness outbreaks in recent US history (Listeria monocytogenes on cantaloupe in 2011 from southeast Colorado killed 33 people) occurred in Colorado, one would expect that the state&s growers would have much more rapid adoption of strategies and tactics to reduce known food safety risks.Many produce buyers require food safety audits such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) or Primus, therefore, we might anticipate that many growers selling into wholesale channels will have completed such an audit. However, audits do not signal that growers have fully understood the science and risks behind the policies and procedures they have adopted to meet the requirements of their audit programs. Furthermore, many produce growers will never complete a voluntary audit and will instead rely on their own knowledge and observations to determine risks and appropriate management on their farms.Understanding and implementing produce safety practices requires behavior change among Colorado&s produce growers, some of whom have been growing fruits and vegetables in the same manner for generations. However, behavior change requires pairing new knowledge and values with the resources to implement new strategies and approaches. Combining food safety knowledge, values and resources will help to motivate growers and empower them to adopt new practices. Our project goal is to educate individual produce growers about on-farm food safety practices that work for their operations, while encouraging new conversations and collaborations throughout the grower community that will lead to eventual attitude change and widespread adoption of produce safety tools and strategies. This represents a cultural change that lasts well beyond the efforts of one single project. Furthermore, we recognize that every growing region in Colorado has a unique community of growers, therefore, we will focus on providing education and building connections in ways that resonate and are impactful in each region. The Colorado Produce Safety Collaborative: Regionally Adapted Training and Outreach project:builds knowledge across the diversity of produce growers in the state;makes research and practical tools accessible through multiple channels;adds community-level experiences to enhance practice adoption;creates a feedback loop with an advisory committee to best meet grower needs; andfosters community development through local networks for lasting cultural change.Our ultimate goal is to change the culture of on-farm food safety practice adoption among Colorado produce growers by providing a continuum of information and resources that will build their skills and knowledge. We will use workshops, trainings, conferences, webinars, website content, social media, tours, meetings, mentorships, and advisory committee feedback to target regionally specific needs of produce growers in Colorado. We anticipate that hundreds of produce growers in four regions of Colorado will gain new knowledge, tools and confidence to manage produce safety risks on their farms, and indicate their intentions to adopt new on-farm produce safety practices, using the Produce Safety Rule as a foundation.Our educational and outreach plan will help the Colorado Produce Safety Collaborative reach an increasing number of growers at any stage of developing their businesses and their on-farm food safety programs, help them meet regulatory and buyer requirements, and provide consumer assurances that Colorado produce is grown in the safest manner possible. For those who choose fruits and vegetables for a healthier lifestyle, they can be assured that Colorado produce growers are doing their very best to keep Colorado produce safe to eat.