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Enhancing Food Safety Through an Integrated Education and Outreach Program using Principles of Risk Management


This project will improve food safety though increased acceptance and use of risk science. This will be achieved through the following activities: <OL> <LI> Develop two curricula on the application of risk science to improve food safety. Both curricula will include teachers' and students' manuals. The first curriculum will consist of twelve online lectures describing the risk management process and its major components. The second curriculum will consist of 36 online lectures and provide greater detail on the application of the risk management process, by presenting in-depth examples for the food industry. <LI> Beta test the materials developed in Activity (1) in four venues including within existing 3 credit hour university food safety classes for seniors and graduate students (the 12-lecture curriculum), as a stand-alone, 1 credit hour university class (12-lecture curriculum), as a continuing education program for industry professionals and state and federal regulators (the 12-lecture curriculum), and as a 3 credit hour graduate course within an online Master's program in Food Safety (36-lecture curriculum). <LI> Evaluate and revise the curriculum materials based upon input from all stakeholders. <LI>Disseminate the program nationwide for implementation by educational institutions, professional societies, and industry associations. <LI> Conduct additional program evaluation based upon national usage. <LI>Publish the evaluation results to inform stakeholders of the acceptance and perceived utility of risk science within the food industry. <LI>Maintain the program for 10 years following completion of the project. </ol>The development and delivery of a risk science curriculum for the food industry will increase the awareness and knowledge of the usefulness of a risk management program with respect to food safety. By introducing the concepts of risk science to both current and future industry participants (including regulators), the food industry will gain a critical mass of participants conversant in the topic. Risk management programs, which have proven efficacy in many other industries, will only gain acceptance in the food industry through the buy-in of industry participants; hence the need for an educational program to raise awareness and knowledge of the subject. It is expected that participants will become aware of the value of the risk management process in improving food safety, have a general idea on how such a program is assembled, and understand the basic components required to develop an effective risk management program. Furthermore, the participants should become advocates for the risk management process and be aware of the various tools that can be used in addition to HACCP to develop a comprehensive risk program. As a result of completing the curriculum, all program participants should be capable of contributing to the development of a risk management program, even though they may not have all of the expertise required to lead the development effort. Another important outcome of this work will be the incorporation of risk science topics within food safety courses offered at U.S. universities.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The quality and safety of our nation's food supply can be compromised by pathogenic microorganisms and/or by intentional, unapproved and sometimes health-threatening food additives. This proposal is designed to strengthen the nation's food defense system by introducing a comprehensive education and extension program to teach risk science and the risk management process to current and future safety managers and regulators in the U.S. food industry. The risk management process has been successfully implemented in many industrialized nations but not within the U.S., even though it is fully described in the Food Codex Alimentarius. The U.S. food industry has failed to embrace comprehensive risk programs due to a lack of knowledge regarding risk science and how to incorporate it into quality systems. In spite of all the efforts of academia, government and industry, there remains a major need for comprehensive training programs designed to increase food safety. To help meet this need, four universities will cooperate to introduce risk science and the risk management process to a range of audiences within both formal (university) and informal (food industry) settings. The program will be designed fro on-line delivery and will include audio visuals as well as supporting written materials. It is hypothesized that this approach of education and extension will promote rapid adoption of risk science by the food industry. Knowledgeable graduates entering the industry will spur the use of risk science processes. Knowledgeable industry professionals and regulators will promote risk science use and demand this expertise in new hires, encouraging risk science course adoption within university curricula. Evaluations will be conducted throughout the project to accomplish the following: improve teaching materials; determine the effectiveness of the program in changing behavior, attitudes, or perceptions of professionals within the industry; and determine the adoption rate of the materials by universities and industry.

APPROACH: : The following twelve steps will be conducted to develop and administer the project: 1)Assemble Project Team; 2) Develop Curricula; 3)Develop Course Manuals; 4) Develop and Record Lectures; 5) Beta Test the Program at Virginia Tech, Purdue, North Carolina State University, University of Tennessee, with Members of Two Industry Trade Organizations, and with a Group of State and Federal Regulators; 6) Receive Feedback from each of the Participant Groups and Make Revisions to Manuals and/or Lectures; 7) Develop and Implement Public Relations Program; 8) Offer the Program to University-based Food Science and Technology Programs Nationwide, Industry Trade Associations, and Professional Societies; 9) Perform Final Evaluation, Make Curriculum Changes, and Publish Project Findings; 10) Maintain Program for Minimum of 10 years, Continuing to Offer the Program Nationally and Internationally; 11) Evaluate after 4 and 8 Years; and 12) Make Revisions to Manual and/or Lectures as Required. Input from the advisory board will be documented throughout the project. <P>
Project staff will communicate what comments have changed the curriculum and what input is being reserved for future consideration. Contributions to the discussion boards will be content analyzed using a set of key words to determine which concepts are discussed most frequently. Discussion board content will also be analyzed to determine which themes are important to participants and to trace those ideas to various student, industry or agency groups. Quizzes in the curriculum will be assessed with percent correct and percent incorrect. Any questions that have a high "incorrect" rate will be followed up with open-ended questions conducted on the discussion board to probe participant higher-order thinking on the concept. Once the level of participant understanding is assessed, either the frequently-missed quiz questions will be reworded (if it appears the question was confusing) or the presentation of the concept in the lecture will be modified to facilitate greater comprehension (if it appears the issue was a lack of understanding). Via the course evaluations, input from students will be considered by the advisory board and implemented where appropriate. Organizers will determine the percentage of U.S. universities with food science programs adopting the curriculum. Data from phone interviews will be used to determine the percentage of companies (with employees completing the curriculum) that intend to incorporate additional risk management strategies.

Flick Jr, George
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
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