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Enhancing Farmers Market Food Safety Practices for Fresh Produce Handling

Investigators
Gibson, Kristen E
Institutions
University of Arkansas
Start date
2013
End date
2016
Objective

The overarching goal of this project is to enhance vendor food safety practices at farmers markets by developing educational materials and operational tools through the completion of these specific objectives:

Objective 1: Conduct focus groups with farmers market vendors and managers to determine current implementation of food safety training materials and to identify best management practices

Objective 2: Conduct focus groups with farmers market consumers to identify perceptions of food safety and local produce

Objective 3: Determine the most effective vendor booth configuration of farmers markets to prevent cross-contamination

Objective 4: Develop a dynamic resource to link jurisdiction requirements to be managed by a national farmers market association

Objective 5: Develop web and smartphone accessible food safety materials for farmers market vendors, managers and consumers to utilize as a resource on food safety

More information

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY:
Consumer support for the local food movement and farmers markets (FM) has grown exponentially since 2006. FM vendors and managers need to ensure that appropriate GHPs and BMPs are followed so their product is safe for human consumption. However, the resource base for FM food safety is fragmented, generalized, and difficult to navigate. Additionally, novel approaches are needed to engage consumers in market food safety. The overall goal of this project is to equip vendors, market managers, and consumers with both scientifically-based and practical behaviors that will reduce the likelihood of a foodborne outbreak. We will achieve this goal through the following objectives: 1. Conduct focus groups with FM vendors and managers to determine current implementation of food safety training materials. 2. Conduct surveys and focus groups with FM consumers to identify perceptions of market food safety and local fresh produce. 3. Determine the most effective FM vendor booth configuration to prevent cross-contamination. 4. Develop a dynamic resource to link local jurisdiction requirements. 5. Develop web and smartphone accessible food safety materials utilizing QR codes and augmented reality. An Advisory Working Group consisting of FM managers/vendors/consumers, USDA eXtension, state health and agriculture departments, and FM associations will be established. We will work with the Advisory Group to accomplish the project goals. The Advisory Group will provide insights into current food safety material, gaps in current material, feedback on novel educational material developed, dissemination and outreach. The proposed project is relevant to the goals of the program as it addresses the need for food safety educational material for farmers markets to improve GHPs and BMPs. APPROACH: OBJECTIVE 1: Conduct online focus groups with farmers market vendors and managers to determine current implementation of food safety training materials and to identify best management practices. Task 1.1 Survey farmers market vendors and managers to determine implementation of food safety training material and utilization of BMPs. Farmers market managers and vendors will be surveyed to determine their food safety perceptions as well as what BMPs/training materials are currently utilized. The investigators will analyze the data obtained from these surveys and establish a baseline on farmers market managers' and vendors' perspectives on food safety practices and current practices. The results of this task will be used in future objective involving the development of educational materials. Task 1.2 Conduct Online Focus Groups for Market Managers and Vendors. Online focus groups will be developed to understand specific food safety related concerns or needs that market managers may have. This will help investigators identify areas that need to be addressed while developing the food safety resources in Objective 5. Utility of Results: The results obtained will be used in the remaining objectives of this proposed study to design farmers markets and develop web and smart phone accessible food safety material. This interactive material will be developed for market managers, vendors, and consumers. In addition, these data will form the basis for a symposium at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) Conference in January 2015 as well as a peer-reviewed manuscript. OBJECTIVE 2: Conduct surveys and focus groups with farmers market consumers to identify perceptions of food safety and local produce. Task 2.1. Survey consumers at farmers markets in Texas and Arkansas to determine perceptions of food safety. Consumers from at least three farmers markets in Texas (Rice University, Sugar Land, and Urban Harvest) and in Arkansas (Fayetteville, Jonesboro, and Little Rock) will be surveyed to determine their perceptions of food safety at the markets. Task 2.2. Conduct online focus groups for farmers market consumers in Texas and Arkansas. Online consumer focus groups will be conducted at the University of Arkansas and University of Houston. A model similar to the one explained in Objective 1 (Task 1.2) will be followed. Utility of Results: The results obtained will be used in the remaining objectives of this proposed study to design farmers market food safety material accessible via the web and smartphone. This interactive outreach material will be developed for market managers, vendors, and consumers. OBJECTIVE 3: Determine the most effective vendor booth configuration of farmers markets to prevent cross-contamination. Task 3.1. Conduct a content analysis of current websites developed by extension agencies and other government agencies concerning food safety for effective layout and designs of markets. We will conduct a review of existing farmers market guidelines developed by multiple state extension agencies and farmers market associations currently being used by farmers market managers. We will use a qualitative method to collect and analyze these guidelines. More specifically, we will use a content analysis technique to compare, evaluate, code and perform a frequency analysis on food safety guidelines used to safely operate a farmers market. Task 3.2. Model cross-contamination between vendors at farmers markets using surrogates. The researchers will create mock farmers markets using multiple booth configurations (L shape, O shape and U shape) recommended by the Agricultural Marketing Service of the USDA. Foodstuffs found typically in farmers markets will be inoculated with surrogates and traced throughout a mock farmers market created in a controlled environment. We will inoculate a cocktail of surrogates for pathogens (e.g., Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli) on foods placed in five vendor booths (RTE foods, produce, poultry, dairy, and red meat). The cross contamination will be tracked by sampling 8 different areas in the mock market. Each scenario will be repeated at least 3 times leading to a sample size of 120. Task 3.3. Create a web-based evaluation matrix for farmers market managers to evaluate their current configuration of vendor booths. Based on the results of Tasks 3.1 and 3.2, an evaluation matrix will be developed for farmers market managers to evaluate their current vendor booth locations or configurations. Utility of Results: The results from task 3.1 can be used by farmers market managers to educate vendors on food safety. Managers can use results from task 3.2 and 3.3 to design market layout and reduce the risk of pathogen cross contamination based on scientific evidence. Outreach and educational material designed for vendors, managers and consumers will be developed using the results obtained from this objective (Objective 5). OBJECTIVE 4: Develop a dynamic resource to link jurisdiction requirements to be managed by a national farmers' market association. We will 1) compile jurisdiction requirements for each state on a county-by-county basis if necessary and 2) perform a comparative analysis of state farmers market laws and regulations. Utility of Results: We would expect that the database would serve as a central point of reference for farmers market operators to understand their legal obligations under the local health authority. This would also provide evidence of the need for a national set of model regulations for farmers market food safety. OBJECTIVE 5: Develop web and smart phone accessible food safety materials for both farmers markets and consumers to utilize as a resource on food safety. Task 5.1 Conduct an environmental scan of food safety education materials related to farmers market consumers and managers. A database of the current educational material will be developed and key words and topics will be associated with each entry. These materials will be used later in the project to meet educational needs of farmers market managers and customers. Task 5.2 Develop QR codes to link farmers market consumers to additional information including food handling instructions. Quick response codes will be created for use by farmers market managers, vendors, and consumers to provide additional information about fresh produce including safe food handling instructions. Food safety cheat sheets with existing food safety materials will be developed with corresponding QR codes.In addition, we will create QR codes for farmers market managers upon request to highlight additional information about their products and their operation. Task 5.3 Create an interactive food safety education program to demonstrate how to mitigate cross contamination risk using augmented reality. Augmented reality (AR) has been used in a number of applications to highlight aspects of products or services in printed material. The goal of the AR material would be to "show" users the reduction in microbial load as a result of food safety practices that reduce cross-contamination risk. Once initial usability testing is done, the material will be put into production. Additional testing will be done with two groups of consumers to evaluate the impact of the technology. Two randomized experimental and control groups will be used. Each group will be given a brief questionnaire to assess differences in knowledge and attitudes towards the food safety concept used in the education material. Utility of Results: Augmented reality is a novel technology that could have a great impact on changing people's food handling practices. Results of our experiment could further the development of other applications using AR to change food handling practices.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
ARK02401
Accession number
1001124
Categories
Education and Training
Risk Assessment, Management, and Communication
Bacterial Pathogens
Commodities
Meat, Poultry, Game