In an effort to fulfill its strategic commitment to providing food safety expertise and business solutions for industry, the International Fresh Produce Association’s (IFPA’s) Produce Safety Immersion Program recently welcomed its fourth cohort from a variety of IFPA member companies. A total of 38 companies, including the eight that are a part of the present cohort, have invested in building their food safety capacity through the Produce Safety Immersion Program since its inception in 2020.

Sponsored by Calavo Growers and EcoLab, the 6-month program consists of a mix of virtual and in-person education opportunities designed to develop the technical capacity, critical thinking skills, and leadership attributes of the next generation of produce safety professionals.

IFPA advocates that produce safety is not something you “add on” to your business, rather, it is the basis of doing business and a cultural imperative that should permeate an organization. According to IFPA, the investment that the eight selected member companies have made in strengthening the skills of their food safety professionals demonstrates their organizational commitment to food safety and talent development.

Members participating in the 2023 cohort are:

  • Stephanie Anderson, Food Safety Coordinator, Potandon Produce
  • Maria Castaneda, Quality and Food Safety Manager, Diamond Onions
  • Alex Castaneda, Field Food Safety Compliance Supervisor, Grimmway
  • Betsy Handelman, Director of Food Safety and Compliance, Produce Alliance
  • Charles Meadows, Food Safety Manager, L&M Companies
  • Sarah Ann Scarborough, Quality Assurance Supervisor, Grimmway
  • Haley Strange, Food Safety Manager, Plenty
  • Ana Valladares, Food Safety Supervisor, Naturipe Farms

In addition to the program curricula, immersion program fellows also have access to peer-to-peer networking and mentorship connections. For example, two of the three mentors for the present cohort are alumni from the first class of 2020, reinforcing the value that the program delivers and highlighting the mentors’ desire to give back to an initiative that helped them in their careers. Serving as mentors are:

  • Deadra Barnett, Quality and Sanitation Manager, DNO Produce
  • Kinsey Clishe, Food Safety Manager, North Bay Produce Inc.
  • Richard Warsaw, Vice President, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Braga Fresh Foods LLC

The program strengthens both hard science and soft skills that are necessary to excel in a produce safety role, providing technical knowledge to improve critical thinking and produce safety skills, as well as professional development and networking opportunities to foster confidence.

In the weeks ahead, industry will be introduced to the 2023 IFPA Produce Safety Immersion Program cohort through interviews shared via the IFPA Food Safety Fridays short video series that cover a diverse assortment of produce safety topics and issues.

The immersion program is one of many development opportunities IFPA member and industry food safety professionals can access. Other programs include:

  • Listeria Management for the Produce Industry Certificate Program
  • Produce Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Harmonized Standard Auditor Training
  • Produce Inspection Training Program
  • Recall Ready Workshop

Additional IFPA food safety resources can be found in the association’s Online Learning Academy and the IFPA website.

The International Fresh Produce Association :