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Southern Region Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training: Using Pre- and Post-Training Knowledge Assessments to Understand Training Effectiveness.

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) grower training was introduced in 2016 as the standardized curriculum to meet the training requirements of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act's (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR). The PSR states that at least one supervisor or responsible party from each farm must have successfully completed this food safety training or one equivalent to the standardized curriculum, as recognized by the FDA. This study evaluated the effectiveness of PSA trainings conducted between 2017-2019 in the Southern United States by the Southern Regional Center for Food Safety Training, Outreach and Technical Assistance by analyzing pre- and post-test assessments. Effectiveness was based on a 25-question knowledge assessment administered to participants before (n = 2494) and after (n = 2460) each training. The knowledge assessment indicated the overall effectiveness of the training, with average scores increasing significantly from pre-test (15.9/25, 63.4%) to post-test (20.3/25, 81.3%) (P<0.001). The greatest knowledge gains were seen in the Postharvest Handling and Sanitation, How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan, and Agricultural Water modules. Notably, these modules had lower post-test scores compared to the other modules, indicating that the amount of knowledge gained did not necessarily correspond with a sufficient understanding of the material. To ensure that participants understand all aspects of the PSR and best practices to minimize food safety risks, additional or advanced trainings may be needed. Additionally, the current testing instrument (pre/post-test) used for PSA grower training, while validated, may not be optimal, thus alternative methods to assess the training effectiveness are likely needed.

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