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Developing, Implementing and Evaluating Interventions to Improve Behavioral Determinants on Food Safety Practices

Objective

This proposal entails the development and delivery of short courses in harvest and post harvest management, good agricultural practices (GAP), good handling practices (GHP) of minimal processing of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables with emphasis in the quality and safety of minimally processed foods. Information will be directed to applications in small farm operations in direct marketing, to cottage scale processing industries, and also to more conventional large-scale operations of fruit and vegetable production. Approximately 60-70% of each course will be dedicated to food safety and food security topics.

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<OL> <LI> To strength my proposal with the expertise of researchers in GAP and GHP of Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica and United States. Dr. Carmen Hernandez Brenes Associate Professor Department of Food Technology Monterrey Campus Jorge Mancini Filho Professor Titular Department of Food Science and Nutrition Universidad de Sao Paulo Dr. Elhadi M. Yahia Professor Human Nutrition Program Autonomous University of Queretaro Dr. Robert B. Gravani Professor Department of Food Science Cornell University Dr. Dimuth Siritunga Assistant Professor Department of Biology University of Puerto Rico <LI>To establish a schedule of visits to determine educational needs of farmers in other Latin American countries, especially those who export their crops to the U.S. <LI> To perform some microbial preliminary studies on a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables and/or bacteriological quick environmental swab/testing of food contact surfaces, water, ice, worker's hands and cloth and test for Enterobacteriaceae. <LI>To develop short courses and long distance learning tools in harvest and post harvest management, good agricultural practices (GAP), good handling practices (GHP) of minimal processing of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables with emphasis in the quality and safety of minimally processed using a strategic plan that fully integrate our specific educational needs. <LI> To perform risk assessment using the FDA investigation questionnaire to verify how many factors are non-compliant with GAPs best practice for food safety measures and risk management decisions.

More information

NARRATIVE: Few would dispute the importance of the role played by fresh fruits and vegetables in the American diet. Health experts encourage us to eat more of these particular foods, at least five servings every day. However, while public concern about food safety and good agricultural practices is high, information about these issues is often inconsistent and fragmented. What does the public really know about food safety? How reliable is the information on which good agricultural practices and interventions decisions are based? These are two of the questions that need to be addressed by leaders in agriculture, government and academia. Because production, harvest, and distribution in commercial agriculture are very large and complex operations, it is imperative to understand and known the risks. Contamination can come from soil treated with improperly composted manure or from wash or irrigation water that has been polluted by wild or domestic animals. Contamination can occur during transport when produce contacts dirty surfaces or contaminated ice or air. The personal hygiene and sanitation of workers in the field also contributes significantly to the possibility of pathogen exposure Every farmer needs to be aware of the microbiological hazards and the real potential threat that exists to the consumer; and by implementing good agricultural practices farmers are not only protecting public health but safeguarding their businesses as well.

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APPROACH: Two short courses (1.5- 3 days each) will be developed to address the stated objectives. The courses will be conducted at the Food Safety Institute of the Americas in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, University of Puerto Rico, and/or in other appropriate locations. The first short-course on post-harvest technology of fruits and vegetables will be jointly developed by Rushing (Clemson University), Orellana (UPRM), Negron (UPRM) and Goodrich (University of Florida). The content will be similar to short courses offered by the Univeristy of California-Davis (http:// foodsafe.ucdavis.edu) and the University of Florida (http://foodsafety.ifas.ufl.edu), except that GAP's and GMP's will be integrated into presentations amd commodity-specific information will be focused on products of importance value to Puerto Rico. This short course will be offer 4 times: 2 meetings for FFA Clubs, 2 meeting for industry managers, university instructors and researchers, extension professionals and local inspectors of the Department of Health and FDA. Orellana (UPRM), Negron (UPRM), Velazquez (UPRM) and the supporting faculty will develop the second short course on minimally processed foods using a curricula similar to offered by University of California-Davis. This short course will be offer 4 times: 2 meetings for FFA Clubs, 2 meeting for industry managers, university instructors and researchers, extension professionals and local inspectors of the Department of Health and FDA. The following are proposed course outlines that may be revised as needed: Short course 1: Fruit and Vegetables Operations I. Introduction to post-harvest biology and technology II. Pre-harvest factors that impact quality and safety III. Pre-cooling and cooling IV. Packing operations V. Packaging VI. Storage VII. Transportation and distribution VIII. Retail Handling IX. Commodity case studies X. Security concerns for fresh produce handlers and consumers Short course 2: Quality and safety of minimally processed foods I. Introduction II. Raw product quality and safety III. Receiving produce at the processing facility IV. Processing V. Packaging VI. Storage VII. Distribution VIII. Retail Handling IX. Considerations for the consumer X. Special topic: Food service XI. Inventory control at all handling steps XII. Commodity case studies XIII. Security concerns for fresh-cut operations

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PROGRESS: 2007/09 TO 2008/08<BR>
OUTPUTS: Objectives: 1. To develop short courses and long distance learning tools in harvest and post harvest management, good agricultural practices (GAP), good handling practices (GHP) of minimal processing of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables. The emphasis must be on the quality and safety of minimal processing using a strategic plan that fully integrates our specific educational needs A short course of two-day duration was offered 26-27 March 2008 sponsored by the Institute of Food Safety of Las Americas. Two short-courses were sponsored by the College of Agronomist of Puerto Rico. With this course information, farmers have become aware of the microbiological hazards and of how real the potential threat is to the consumer; than are aware that by implementing GAP they are not only protecting public health but safeguarding their own businesses as well. P.I., Lynette E. Orellana participated in the course "HACCP for the Fresh Cut Industry" for certification on 20-22 May 2008 in Athens, Georgia, with Maribel Alemany and Angelica Peluffo. With these training sessions, P.I.s and students who are collaborating in this project gather knowledge and techniques to strength the training and research program. <BR>
2. Evaluate the presence of pathogenic microorganism in minimally processed foods and perform risk assessment to verify how many producers are non-compliant with GAPs best practices for food safety measures and risk management decisions. Twelve samples of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) and coriander (Coriandrum sativum) were collected from 10 hydroponics farms in Puerto Rico. The samples were analyzed for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 and Shiguella sonnei, in lettuce and coriander, respectively, considering the national and international events that indicate an increase in disease outbreaks transmitted through produce. In addition, total plate and coliform counts were done. The water activity and pH were also analyzed. <BR> TARGET AUDIENCES: The short courses provided a well-rounded, practical approach to improved knowledge, changing behavior, attitudes and perceptions to almost 120 persons including farmers, agronomist, industry managers, university instructors and researchers, extension professionals and local inspectors of the Department of Agriculture of Puerto Rico. <BR>
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IMPACT: 2007/09 TO 2008/08<BR>

None of the samples were positive for the pathogens analyzed in this study. The aerobic plate count, coliform and E. coli counts indicated that the production of lettuce and coriander under hydroponic conditions can be considered of average quality, if we compare our results with those of the HACCP-TQM Technical Guideliness (Anonymous, 1998. HACCP-TQM Technical Guidelines). Because production, harvest, and distribution in commercial agriculture are very large complex operations, it is imperative to understand and know the risks. Our short courses have already impacted around 120 stakeholders with a program of Good Agricultural Practices appropriate for particular crops, economic situations, and physical surroundings to ensure the safety of local produce in Puerto Rico. The assessment forms gathered on each visit to collect samples for microbiological analysis, since completion of the short course have demonstrated an increase of knowledge and change of attitude in the majority of cases. This observation has been confirmed by the data collected; no food borne illness has been reported in Puerto Rico due to the consumption of fresh produce.
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PROGRESS: 2006/09/01 TO 2007/08/31<BR>

The education component of this proposal entails the development and delivery of short courses in harvest and post harvest management, good agricultural practices (GAP), good handling practices (GHP) of minimal processing of fresh tropical fruits and vegetables with emphasis in the quality and safety of minimally processed foods. We already have done three short-courses of two days duration to small farm operations on August 25-26, 2006, February 2-3, 2007 and March 26-27, 2007. Two of the short-courses were sponsored by the College of Agronomist of Puerto Rico. With this information farmers are aware of the microbiological hazards and the real potential threat that exists to the consumer and how by implementing GAP they are not only protecting public health but safeguarding their businesses as well. P.I., Lynette E. Orellana participated on the course "Developing & Implementing GAPs, GMPs & Biosecurity Plans for Fresh Produce HACCP" on February 13-15, 2007 at Athens, GA with Maribel Alemany and Angelica Peluffo, students of the Program of Food Science and Technology that will performed the research. P.I., Edna Negron participated on the course "Produce Inspection Training Program" on April 16-20, 2007 at Washington, D.C. With these trainings P.I.'s and students that are collaborating in this project gather knowledge and techniques to strength the program. The research component will evaluate the presence of pathogenic microorganism on minimally processed foods. This information could be used to determined safer methods of food production and distribution, new methods for assessing contamination and defined the role of food in promoting health and determined food safety practices. At today, we already have done risk analysis on six hydroponics farms and microbiological sampling for coliforms, E.coli O157:H7 and Shigella soneii on lettuce and coriander. Four more farms are in progress
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IMPACT: 2006/09/01 TO 2007/08/31<BR>

Because production, harvest, and distribution in commercial agriculture are very large and complex operations, it is imperative to understand and known the risks. Our short courses have already impact around 90 farmers and 6 hydroponics farms with a program of Good Agricultural Practices appropriate to particular crops, economic situation, and physical surroundings to ensure the safety of produce locally produce in Puerto Rico.

Investigators
Orellana, Lynette
Institution
University of Puerto Rico
Start date
2006
End date
2009
Project number
PR00CID-ORELLANA
Accession number
207867