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Assessment and Reduction of Produce Food Safety Risks in the School Foodservice System


The goals of this project are to identify, assess, and reduce produce food safety risks in school foodservice systems via quantitative and qualitative research techniques and development and evaluation of a food safety training program targeting produce food safety. <P> Specifically, this project will target employees and managers in secondary schools foodservice where self-service salad bars are frequently offered to middle school and high school students. <P> This project has three objectives as follows: To Identify and Assess Produce Food Safety Risks in the School Foodservice System by observation of fresh produce handling, a laboratory survey, school foodservice administrator interviews, and a national survey of school foodservice directors; To Develop a Risk Model for Produce Food Safety; and To Develop, Implement, and Assess Effectiveness of a Training Program to Reduce Food borne Outbreak Risks due to Produce Handling - The program will include employee training materials and lesson plans for trainers along with suggested changes in policies and procedures related to procurement, production, and service of fresh produce. <P> Effectiveness of the program will be evaluated based on surveys, observations of behavior changes and laboratory surveys before and after the intervention using quasi-experimental design. Upon completion of the program evaluation, the food safety training program will be disseminated to school foodservice administrators and their professional affiliations as well as government agencies. <P> Expected outputs of this project include the following activities and products: Activities: Assess produce food safety risks through observation, administrator interview, laboratory survey, and a national survey, Develop a produce food safety risk model Develop a produce food safety program, Train school foodservice staff on produce safety and facilitate changes in foodservice policies and procedures, Disseminate the final program to school food service administrators, Disseminate findings by professional journals. <P> Products: Produce food safety training program including audiovisual training program, lesson plans, supplemental information for trainers, and games and activities to enhance participant learning outcomes.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: <BR> Nearly 30 million students in the U.S. eat at schools daily, raising the significance of food safety in this environment. Fresh produce food safety has become more of a concern as foodborne illness (FBI) outbreaks via fresh produce continue to increase in the U.S. Although recent FBI outbreaks involving fresh produce were due to poor agricultural practices and contamination during processing, studies showed some outbreaks could have been prevented if time and temperature was controlled properly. Existing produce food safety systems are limited to the continuum from farm to distributors, and little is known about produce food safety risks in foodservice particularly in schools. Therefore, this project proposes to assess produce food safety risks in school foodservice systems by observation, laboratory survey, administrator interviews, and a national survey. Based on the findings, a mathematical risk model will be developed to identify critical control points for staff training. A training program will be developed including audiovisual media or an individual training module with supplemental materials. Subsequently, produce food safety training will be provided, and changes in produce handling behaviors and pathogen levels will be measured to evaluate effectiveness of the program. Upon completion, the training program will be distributed to federal and state child nutrition program leaders and all schools participating in the project. After the project is completed, the training program will be continuously marketed and distributed to interested groups for a nominal cost.

<P> APPROACH:<BR> The first objective is to identify and assess produce food safety risks in school foodservice systems. Multifaceted data will be collected including observation of employee produce handling, laboratory (lab) survey, and school foodservice administrator interview at 30 schools in KS and TX. Secondary schools with self-service salad bars, preferably from different vendors will be involved. Trained researchers and assistants will observe handling behavior from procurement to preparation. Sample lettuce and tomatoes (180 samples each - 3 samples/day@2 day observation @30 facilities) will be collected aseptically after receiving, before and after services. Serving utensils will be swabbed and swab and food samples will be shipped within 24 hours for analyses. Series of microbiological analyses will be performed to confirm existence of bacteria. Foodservice directors of school districts selected for the research will be interviewed for policies and procedures of produce handling. Based on the findings, a questionnaire will be development, pilot-tested, and revised for a national survey. The questionnaire will ask knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of the school foodservice directors regarding produce food safety; and demographic information. Descriptive statistics, t-tests and ANOVA, hierarchical linear model techniques, MANOVA, and MANCOVA will be used to analyze the results. The second objective is to develop risk model for produce food safety that will describe transmission of identified hazards from the moment a contaminated product enters a foodservice facility through consumption. The risk model will be constructed based on Risk Assessment scheme that encompass Exposure Assessment, Hazard Characterization, and Risk Characterization using data collected previously using mathematical modeling techniques. The third objective is to develop, implement, and assess effectiveness of a training program to reduce foodborne outbreak risks due to produce handling. Produce safety topics and preferred medium will be identified from previous data collection. Scripts will be written and reviewed by experts. Multi-formats activities are possible depended on types of media preferred. Upon completion, the program will be evaluated at 30 schools which will be randomly divided into test and control groups. Knowledge and attitude tests, observations, and lab surveys will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Knowledge and attitude tests will be conducted before and two weeks after the intervention, and observations and lab surveys will be conducted three months after the intervention. MANOVA will be conducted to test for differences between intervention and control groups on the post-test scores. MANCOVA will be used if baseline difference is found. Observation and lab survey data collected after the intervention will be used to evaluate the produce food safety risks after intervention. Copies of training materials will be sent to state and local child nutrition program directors, the School Nutrition Association, the National Food Service Management Institute, and other related professional organizations for dissemination and further marketing.

Kwon, Junehee
Kansas State University
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