AMS No. 140-10
Jimmie Turner (202) 720-8998
WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched the Produce Safety University, a new food safety initiative focusing on safe handling of fresh produce by school food service operators.
The first of three weeklong workshops was held in early August, combining a series of lecture, laboratory and field-trip instruction that covers all aspects of the fresh produce supply chain, from growing and harvesting, to storing and ultimately preparing. Subsequent workshops are scheduled for Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, and Oct. 18 - 22. All workshops are held at USDA’s National Training and Development Center in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Two USDA agencies, the Food and Nutrition Service and Agricultural Marketing Service, teamed up to develop and implement the workshops designed to instruct staff who train school food service handlers. These workshops – by invitation-only – are for the Food and Nutrition Service’s school foodservice program operators, state agency staff, and regional office staff.
“The Produce University concept helps provide the necessary tools to food service handlers that will help our schools provide safe and nutritious fresh produce to our nation’s school children”, said Rayne Pegg, AMS Administrator. “We believe through this type of education initiative, we can help minimize foodborne illnesses from occurring.”
All workshops will incorporate Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices with relation to large and small growers, and farm-to-school programs and school gardens. Upon completion, all attendees will receive a certificate and training packet that can be used for regional, state and local trainings on fresh produce handling and safety.
USDA encourages schools to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables offered to students who participate in federally funded feeding programs such as the National School Lunch Program, and other child nutrition programs. While research has proven that fresh produce provides many nutritional benefits, it must be handled safely to reduce the risks of foodborne illnesses.
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