Jan. 1, 2011 - Feb. 29, 2012Award Number
Devon Zagory, Ph.D.
Devon Zagory & Associates
Walnuts have not been implicated in any food borne illness outbreaks to date. However, recent Salmonella outbreaks associated with almonds and more recently pistachios have highlighted the vulnerability of nut crops as potential vectors for food borne pathogens. The California walnut industry has a critical interest in preventing outbreaks associated with walnuts and limiting the scope should there be such an outbreak. This proposal describes the development and implementation of education and training programs specific to the walnut industry, to be delivered to 60+ walnut “handlers” operating in California. The program seeks to bring all walnut handlers up to a common level of knowledge about food safety hazards, processes and programs through a series of on-line educational modules. The modules will cover the basics of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Homeland Security (HMLS), Product Protection and Defense and Safety, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), and principals of Trace/Recall. The second part of the program will entail a series of group meetings with handlers to prepare a hazard analysis appropriate for their individual operations. We will then develop training and implementation materials to aid in addressing the identified hazards. Finally, a second series of workshops will provide training in developing trace-recall and food security programs.
Tree nuts must now be included in commodities as potential vectors for food borne illness organisms. While walnuts have not yet been implicated in any outbreaks, almonds and pistachios have. The California walnut industry is made up of many growers but relatively few handlers that aggregate and process the nuts. These handlers may be in a position to minimize the risk of a food borne illness outbreak but, while some may be relatively sophisticated, some are currently at a rudimentary level in terms of food safety understanding and operations. Through a stepped process of online education, hands-on work groups and individual cooperation we propose to bring all members of the walnut handling industry up to a high level of functional food safety and security programs. The online education will provide self-paced modules covering Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP, Homeland Security (HMLS), Product Protection, Defense and Safety, and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) practices. Each module will contain questions to be answered that will measure comprehension of the material and provide rapid assessment of the level of food safety sophistication of each handler as well as provide guidance as to where most effort needs to be made in subsequent programs. Hazard analysis workshops for 10-15 handlers at a time will allow each handler to learn the principals of hazard analysis and will result in each handler having a tailored hazard analysis and associated interventions to address each identified significant hazard. Based on operational unit operations identified during the hazard analysis workshops, we will develop training materials specific to each unit operation. Training materials will include, where appropriate, forms, sign-off sheets and instructions.
A subsequent workshop will facilitate development of trace-recall and food security programs. At each step participants will be questioned as to what was and was not useful in the program and how it might be improved. Some of the suggestions, where possible, may be included in subsequent workshops. The result will be effective operation of stringent, risk-based, food safety programs as well as well reasoned food security and trace recall programs among all walnut handlers in California.