WOOSTER, Ohio -- When it comes to foodborne illness, fresh produce belies its healthful aura: Fresh fruits and vegetables account for 24 percent of U.S. foodborne illness in which both the responsible food and contaminant are identified, according to a 2013 analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by theCenter for Science in the Public Interest.
That’s one reason why Ohio State University’s Fruit and Vegetable Safety Program is holding a series of Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, training sessions throughout Ohio this winter and spring. The program is a combined effort of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the outreach and research arms of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
GAPs sessions are aimed to help growers understand the basic concepts of good agricultural practices and begin developing a farm food safety plan, said Lindsey Hoover, the program’s coordinator.
Over the past two years, the team held 32 such programs with 859 participants, Hoover said. In a series of pre and post-tests conducted in those classes, evaluations indicated that 75 percent of participants showed improvement in information and knowledge gained from the training.
'An additional 18 percent of test scores remained the same, and a number of those were perfect scores to begin with — they couldn't have improved if they tried,' she said.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced it will be revising its proposed regulations for produce growers under the Food Safety Modernization Act, Hoover said the GAPs sessions will cover food safety measures all fruit and vegetable producers should be taking to reduce the risk of produce-related foodborne illness, no matter what’s contained in the final regulations.
Registration for each session is $20 per person, and preregistration is often required. For details on how to register for a session, see http://producesafety.osu.edu/events and click on a program for a registration form and mailing instructions, or contact Hoover at 330-202-3555, ext. 2918, or email@example.com.
The current schedule includes programs in:
- Knox County, Jan. 15, 1-4 p.m., at Owl Creek Produce Auction, 7284 County Road 22, Fredericktown. (This is a no-technology session appropriate for the Amish and Plain communities).
- Sandusky County, Feb. 12, 9 a.m.-noon, at the Sandusky County office of OSU Extension, 2000 Countryside Drive, Fremont. Registration deadline is Feb. 6. For information, contact OSU Extension educator Allen Gahler, 419-334-6340 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lucas County, Feb. 20, 1-4 p.m., Toledo Botanical Gardens Conference Center, 5403 Elmer Drive, Toledo. Registration deadline is Feb. 11. For information, contact OSU Extension program assistant Lee Richter, 419-578-6783 or email@example.com.
- Williams County, Feb. 20, 6-9 p.m., Williams County office of OSU Extension, 425 E. High St., Bryan. Registration deadline is Feb. 13. For information, contact OSU Extension educator Florian Chirra, 419-636-5608, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Knox County, Feb. 27, 1-4 p.m. and again at 6-9 p.m. Location to be determined. For information, contact OSU Extension educator Sabrina Schirtzinger, 740-397-0401 email@example.com.
- Wayne County, March 27, 1-4 p.m., Fisher Auditorium at OARDC, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster. For information, contact OSU Extension educator Rory Lewandowski, 330-264-8722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Miami County, April 3, 1-4 p.m., the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, 301 West Main St., Troy. For information, contact OSU Extension educator Brian Raison, 937-440-3945 email@example.com.
- Logan County, April 3, 6-9 p.m., location to be determined. This session will be focused on produce safety at farmers markets.
- Monroe/Belmont counties, April 15, time and location to be determined.
- Guernsey/Noble counties, April 15, time and location to be determined.
Hoover said plans are in the works for other potential sessions, including:
- Medina County at County Line Produce Auction in early February (no-technology center).
- Fairfield County in March or April.
- Jefferson County in April.
- Hamilton and Montgomery counties.
New information on potential sessions will be added to the program’s website,http://producesafety.osu.edu/events, as it is finalized.
Hoover is still hoping to add more sessions. To suggest a new training location or for additional information on GAPs training, contact Hoover at 330-202-3555, ext. 2918, firstname.lastname@example.org.