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Food Safety: A Tool for Managing Risk and Expanding Direct Market Opportunities

Cowee, Margaret
University of Nevada - Reno
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This project will address the legal, marketing, and financial risks associated with food safety.
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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: A major hurdle to direct marketing is the issue of food safety regulation and liability. Recent widespread food safety violations and meat recalls have increased the importance of communicating to consumers that locally-produced agricultural products have followed government-mandated safety protocols. Four one-day workshops will be held throughout Nevada, including one tribal location. Speakers will include Cooperative Extension educators and agriculture, food safety, and legal professionals. Materials will be available online for producers unable to attend a workshop. The target audience is one hundred small specialty crop and value-added livestock producers and Native American producers interested in direct marketing. Participants will achieve increased awareness of food safety regulations associated with direct-marketed goods, the costs of meeting food safety requirements, strategies to use food safety assurances to add value to products, and the legal issues surrounding food safety.

APPROACH: This project will consist of four one-day educational workshops designed to increase producer understanding of legal, marketing, and financial risks associated with food safety. Six months after the workshops, an evaluation program in the form of follow-up surveys will be administered by mail and telephone to measure producer implementation, understanding and usage of knowledge and information presented in the workshops. The workshops will focus on helping producers understand options for mitigating the food safety risks of direct marketing by teaching them how to communicate to customers that their products have met or surpassed established food safety guidelines. This portion of the workshop will focus on using methods such as labeling, certification, and other product quality assurances. These methods will also address financial risk, as they have been proven to increase the value of agricultural products to consumers, allowing producers to achieve higher prices for products. The workshops will address the legal risks of food safety liability by educating producers as to the legal impacts of food safety regulations and violations. Producers will receive instruction on how to minimize the risks of food safety violations through the creation of a legal plan prior to a violation, as well as how to address the legal issues in the aftermath of a food safety violation. Financial risks are also addressed, as a preemptive legal plan may help protect producers from the negative financial impacts of a food safety violation. Two workshops will be held in Northern and Central Nevada and one workshop in Southern Nevada. A fourth workshop will be held in a tribal location. Locations will be chosen once the project team has met with project collaborators and producers to determine the optimal locations. If enough interest is expressed, additional locations may be added via compressed video. The workshops will be held in February and March 2010, as this is the time of year when producers in Nevada typically experience the lowest level of activity in their operations. Producers in Nevada have expressed their need for additional food safety education both in person, as well as through program evaluations collected at previous University of Nevada Cooperative Extension workshops. If approved, this project would provide Nevada's small-scale specialty crop and tribal producers with vital information to help them stay current with food safety regulations and maintain their competitive edge with non-local food sources.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
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Bacterial Pathogens
Education and Training