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Strawberry Growers Serious About Safety

The California Strawberry Commission’s food safety program was introduced in 1998 after foodborne illness outbreaks traced to imported raspberries and strawberries the two previous years rocked the berry market and farmers sought a way to standardize food safety practices to gain back consumer confidence.  

strawberries.jpgOn its Website, the Strawberry Commission states that its food safety program “consists of materials, tools and workshops to help California strawberry growers, shippers and processors integrate food safety practices into every aspect of their operations.”

At its start, the Strawberry Commission program offered growers food safety information and a poster that could be used as a visual aid to reinforce that information during worker training.  This year, the commission has changed its approach and is promoting food safety by offering workshops designed to teach “anyone who trains harvest workers in food safety practices” how to make effective food safety training presentations to their workers through the use of newly developed flip-charts.  

Through the commission’s program, supervisors attend training on how to use “language-neutral” and picture-based flip-charts to illustrate proper food safety practices. 

After attending these trainings and learning how to effectively present the food safety message, supervisors hold 30-minute food safety training sessions with workers at the beginning of the season, and shorter reviews about once a week through the remainder of the season.  

The Strawberry Commission is pushing to have all California strawberry workers trained with the flip-charts by next year.  Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the Strawberry Commission in Watsonville, CA, said that 350 supervisors who will train 40,000 field workers have already attended trainings on how to use the flip-charts in food safety presentations.  

The commission’s next training, “Teaching Food Safety: How to Communicate Food Safety Practices to Strawberry Harvest Workers,” will be held today from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge, 1309 N. Bradley Road, in Santa Maria, CA.

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