Food Safety Education Supports the Agricultural Economy
- By Omar Adrian Oyarzabal
Vermont has an international reputation for high-quality specialty food products. When businesses expand product lines into larger markets, they must provide stringent proof to buyers that internationally accepted food safety practices are followed. Learning and adopting these practices is a daunting task for any small business.
UVM Extension’s Food Safety Program for Facilities led by Food Safety Specialist Omar Oyarzabal (“Dr. Omar”) helps food producers meet those requirements. Through partnerships with the Vermont Department of Health (VTDH), the VTDH Laboratory, the International HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) Alliance, the Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance and the Better Process Control Schools Network from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, UVM Extension offers necessary training and certification for food processors.
Ten years ago, Fat Toad Farm was a small-scale diversified farm making cheese and caramel on a dirt road in Brookfield, Vermont. The business now sells its awardwinning goat’s milk caramel sauces nationwide. Food safety has always been a priority, but the world of national distribution pushed them to the next level. They took advantage of Omar Oyarzabal’s expertise to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and to guide them as they look toward expansion. Improvements like these better position Fat Toad Farm to capture a national retail market, ultimately supporting local business and Vermont agriculture.
Over two years, Oyarzabal delivered 19 trainings (many with certification) to 258 people and provided direct consultations to businesses in ten Vermont counties. So far, 35 businesses have made improvements to their operations including completing or implementing food safety plans, thanks to Oyarzabal’s training and guidance.
Visit go.uvm.edu/producer-food-safety for more information on UVM Extension food safety programs for commercial producers.
NIFA supports UVM Extension: This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture.