Linda Benedict, Bankston, Jr., Joseph D., Reames, Elizabeth S.
Beth Reames and David Bankston
Assuring the safety of our food supply is a major program effort of the LSU AgCenter. Extension agents and specialists provide research-based food safety information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the LSU AgCenter. They do this through a variety of means including classes, personal consultation, the mass media and Web sites. When hurricanes and other natural disasters happen, AgCenter personnel step in immediately to help people understand what to do about food affected by power outages and flooding.
One food safety program of particular note is the award-winning Serving Food Safely. This program was initially developed in 2003 as a joint effort involving faculty from Southern University in Louisiana, Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas. The curriculum covers the following topics: food-borne illness causes and prevention, temperature danger zones, personal hygiene and hand washing procedures, cleaning and sanitizing, food storage, transporting food safely, and cleaning and inspecting food.
Results from a study of nearly 200 workshop participants indicated that knowledge and adoption of recommended food safety practices increased following participation in the workshops and was sustained four months after participation. Comments from program participants indicated they enjoyed the participatory learning activities incorporated into the curriculum and found the fact sheets and other materials easy to read and understand.
The Serving Food Safely Program continues to be a resource for food safety programming. Specialists and agents have trained more than 700 food service employees and volunteers including those providing meals to hurricane victims housed in community centers, schools and churches; New Orleans Jazz Fest vendors; and staff and volunteers of commercial and governmental organizations, including the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, the Salvation Army, homeless centers and Head Start centers. A 2008 example is the training of 40 food handlers for Way Makers Ministries, which provides thousands of meals to summer camp programs in both Jefferson and Orleans Parishes.
The curriculum, revised in 2006, has been nationally disseminated and is being used in other states. The program has been nationally recognized with two awards from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences – the Outstanding Curriculum and the Program Excellence in Research awards. The development team also won the LSU AgCenter Denver T. and Ferne Loupe Extension Team award in 2007.
Beth Reames, Professor, School of Human Ecology, and David Bankston, Professor, Department of Food Science, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, La.
(This article was published in the fall 2008 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)