In October 2017, USDA NIFA successfully awarded grant funding to Penn State Extension Food Safety team to bring bilingual Produce Safety educational materials and trainings to Hispanic Fresh Produce Growers and Farmworkers in Pennsylvania.

Project PI: Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch

Project Co PIs and collaborators: Jeffrey Stoltzfus; Lee Stivers; Megan Chawner; Tara Baugher and Christi Graver.

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,000 Americans are estimated to die each year from foodborne illnesses and many more are hospitalized and sickened. Yet this is a significant public health burden that is largely preventable. While the U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, Congress entrusted the FDA to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This new law is currently transforming our food safety system from one that responds to contamination to one that prevents it in the first place.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) poses new regulatory challenges to the fresh produce industry in Pennsylvania and across the country. The Produce Safety Rule specifically mandates farm food safety trainings at two levels. At least one supervisor or responsible party on the farm must have successfully completed food safety training. Also, the regulation further states that 1) All personnel who handle produce or food-contact surfaces must receive farm food safety and hygiene training upon hiring and at least once annually, 2) Training must be conducted in a manner that is easily understood by those being trained.

Hispanic growers and farmworkers have a great, unmet need for accessible Food Safety and Good Agricultural Practices information, education, and resources. The social, linguistic, and economic disadvantages faced by many Hispanic/Latino individuals leave them less able than other groups to understand and manage food safety hazards.

During recent trainings conducted by Penn State Extension, Hispanic/Latino growers, supervisors, and farmworkers communicated that the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) curriculum is hard for them to grasp in a one day training session. They asked us to conduct shorter, simpler, and individual trainings in Spanish on GAPs and Food Safety content. Therefore, the goal of this pilot project is to continue to work closely with community stakeholders to determine the knowledge gaps of food safety programming, and to prepare educational materials and deliver trainings in Spanish to help Hispanic/Latino growers and farmworkers understand some of the concepts included in the PSA curriculum. We will focus our educational materials and trainings on topics such as personal hygiene, microorganisms, pre-harvest sources and condition of contamination, post-harvest sources and conditions of contamination.