P1-145 Evaluating the Effectiveness of Food Safety Trainings by Determining Factors That Influence Grower Adoption of Food Safety Certification Practices

Sunday, July 26, 2015
Exhibit Hall (Oregon Convention Center)
Donna Pahl, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Tarik Chfadi, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Clare Narrod, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Christopher Walsh, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
David Martin, University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD
Shirley Micallef, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Introduction: Fresh produce growers are under increased pressure to abide by federal food safety guidelines and obtain third-party Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) certifications. Food safety trainings have been offered in Maryland for several years, although only about one quarter of attendees implement food safety plans and receive GAP certification. 

Purpose: To increase the number of trainees implementing recommended practices, this study aimed to define the factors influencing grower’s opinions of food safety practices and their reluctance to obtain GAP certification.

Methods: Attendees filled out a pre-training questionnaire at full-day food safety trainings to capture their perceptions of food safety regulations and abilities to implement recommended practices. A second questionnaire was given post-training to self-assess skill level, training satisfaction and estimated barriers to certification. A multiple-choice factual test on training content was given pre- and post-training to provide a quantifiable measurement of learning. Nine months post-training, attendees were sent a follow-up questionnaire to measure implementation of food safety practices on their farms. 

Results: Over 62 participants completed the questionnaires and factual tests. Participants were involved in a range of markets (retail to wholesale), and 80% (45/56) had never attended a previous GAP training. After the trainings, 76% (47/61) of participants planned on implementing GAPs and receiving a certification. Perceived difficulties to receiving certification were listed as: “none” (58%), “paperwork” (16%), “labor” (8%), “not enough time” (5%), “ lack of infrastructure” (3%), “lack of equipment” (2%), and “no incentive” (2%). An analysis of factual tests demonstrated improved comprehension of food safety concepts (7.3% scored 75% or higher on pre-test, 50.9% scored 75% or higher on post-test).

Significance: These results will allow trainers to address barriers to certification and increase grower adoption of food safety practices and documentation. These results and evaluations will be incorporated into alternative training methods in 2015.