Credit: Alison Chavez | Mustang News

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) was awarded a food safety outreach grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to keep local farmers up-to-date on food safety.

The project, directed by agribusiness professor Jeta Rudi Polloshka, is a two-year program intended to provide free food safety training for farmers in the Santa Maria Valley. With the $200,000 grant, Cal Poly students will work with Rudi Polloshka and her team of faculty to research and distribute crucial safety training to farmers.

“Farmers, and the food industry in general, need experts to make sure that they’re doing the right things that are binding by regulation and supply the same food for their customers,” Rudi Polloshka said.

In January 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act gave the Food and Drug Administration new power to regulate the way food is farmed and processed. The regulations are necessary but workers often do not receive sufficient training to prepare for inspections, according to Rudi Polloshka.

Rudi Polloshka said they will train farmers on marketing and communication related to food safety, food safety regulations and data tracking for any food safety investments they made.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 48 million people get sick annually from food-borne illness and approximately 3,000 die.

Rudi Polloshka said those statistics were inspiration for the project. She also said she hopes an impact can be made on Central Coast farmers.

Along with other members of Cal Poly and Allan Hancock College faculty, Rudi Polloshka said she will recruit interested students to carry out the research and training process.

“This project gives the students an opportunity to not only make a contribution to an important issue, but also figure out for themselves if this is something that they would like to pursue moving forward,” Rudi Polloshka said.

Her team is hoping to visit 15 different operations in the Santa Maria Valley, targeting small sites that mainly produce leafy greens.

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