Fresh Perspective

Published online: Oct 29, 2020 Articles Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears in the November 2020 issue of Potato Grower.

In July, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) launched its eLearning certificate course Essentials of Produce Safety, an entirely online, affordable and in-depth program covering the key challenges and best practices in produce safety. The course is the first certificate program in PMA’s new educational platform offering, FreshEd Academy. The course was developed in partnership with Intertek Alchemy, the industry leader in produce safety eLearning solutions.

“FreshEd Academy is our commitment to delivering thought leadership to the produce and floral industries, while providing member partners with innovative yet affordable educational solutions” says Gina Jones, vice president of insights and analytics at PMA. “Essentials of Produce Safety is the first of a number of courses and broader initiatives that pick up where today’s traditional training programs end.

FreshEd Academy has been especially relevant over the past several months as the pandemic disrupted many in-person training options,” Jones continues. “Produce safety has become even more top-of-mind for consumers. A distance learning option created for the produce industry by produce industry experts has been an essential resource to ensure our entire industry has acces to the most up-to-date, science-based produce safety education.”

Taught by produce safety experts with real-life understanding of the challenges and risks, Essentials of Produce Safety is available to individual learners and employee groups alike, with all enrollees benefiting from enhanced produce safety proficiency; improved communication across the organization and supply chain; and immediate application of learning to the work environment.

“It is critically important for produce safety supervisors and managers to have an opportunity to receive education on why they are doing what they do, and to gain insights into how to do it even better,” says course author, instructor and former PMA chief science and technology officer Robert Whitaker. “Essentials of Produce Safety is designed to provide that educational experience: converting staid food safety training into an educational opportunity that cultivates industry-leading food safety professionals.”

Everybody in the industry always says that everyone is responsible for food safety. But does everyone up and down the supply chain, from grower to retailer, really practice that particular bit of preaching? PMA believes the intent is there, but that the necessary education is sometimes lacking. That’s the whole impetus behind the creation of FreshEd Academy.

“We often hear that food safety is everybody’s responsibility,” says Whitaker. “If that is going to be more than just a tagline, it follows that a broader audience can benefit from these courses. I believe it is critically important for produce safety supervisors and managers to have an opportunity to more than just train on what they need to do, but to receive educational opportunities on why they are doing what they do and to gain insights on how to do it better.”

Essentials of Produce Safety is delivered entirely online via a device-responsive learning management system that enables learners to complete the course anywhere, on any device—desktop, tablet or mobile. The course consists of seven learning modules, a review module and a certificate exam. Course enrollees can progress through the course material at their own pace and, unlike in-person or onsite trainings, they do not have to take time away from their day-to-day roles.

“One shouldn’t underestimate produce safety practices because of their simplicity,” says instructor Afreen Malik, director of technical services at International Food Safety. “Some of the best strategies we have in preventing foodborne illness are also some of the easiest and simplest to implement—proper hand washing, for example.

“Understanding the science-based fundamental principles of produce safety can help lead to a safer produce supply chain globally,” Malik continues. “If you take this course, you can expect to learn the fundamental produce safety principles applied to practical, real-life scenarios that we face every day in the produce world. The course provides examples and situations from real operations to explain key produce safety principles.” 

The entire FreshEd Academy platform is designed to evolve with changing science, technology and business practices to ensure that the most current information and practices are always available.

Essentials of Produce Safety is now open for enrollment. To enroll or learn more, visit