Technical Training Workshops Teach by Sharing

 

The latest round of LGMA technical training workshops focused on the important topic of cleaning surfaces that come into contact with leafy greens products during harvest, particularly knives and gloves.  There were 8 workshops held in Salinas, Santa Maria and Oxnard offered in both English and Spanish. The sessions dealt not only with proper ways to clean the equipment itself, but in making sure the cleaning solution – usually water and chlorine – is doing the job.  The importance of ensuring water used for sanitizing has adequate levels of chlorine is well known throughout the industry and it is critical that harvest crews check  pH and chlorine levels throughout a day’s harvest operation.  But what became evident during the training session is there is a multitude of methods and equipment used by companies to test and monitor sanitizing solutions – and some are more effective than others.

 

The job of checking free chlorine levels and pH seems like a minor detail, but it can be a critical step in a harvest operation when it comes to food safety. The LGMA frequently reviews information from audits to look for areas which seem particularly difficult with respect to audit citations.  Recently, a project conducted by independent research firm, Intertox, examined data points from LGMA audits conducted between 2008 and 2011.The project looked at all audit check-points and found that mixing, measuring and maintaining proper chlorine and pH levels were significant contributors to non-compliance.  Using this information, the LGMA worked with Intertox to develop a training curriculum designed to increase knowledge and understanding of pH, chlorine and other sanitizers. The course also allowed members to share information with each other to determine the best methods for improving this operation throughout the industry.

This approach was a big hit.  The hands on training techniques and sharing of information created a great learning opportunity for everyone.  For all workshops, members were asked to provide their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for cleaning knives and glove dip buckets.  Attendees were broken into groups and given a series of scenarios with outcomes requiring decision-making and actions.   The groups were asked to work through the scenarios and identify solutions using the SOP’s from the respective companies.    What we found was a wide range of techniques and understanding among the companies, particularly when it came to testing and recording pH and chlorine levels in knife and glove dip buckets. We also learned that industry SOPs vary tremendously, but because the workshops allowed participants to share their own experiences, everyone learned not just from the presentation, but from each other as they shared techniques used in the field.  It was clear we all came away with a much better knowledge of how to make this seemingly simple, but complex step more effective and uniform.

Following the workshops, I received the note below from Herman Cossio, food safety manager for Church Brothers

Mike: I wanted to take a moment and thank you for inviting me and my harvest supervisors to your workshop on Chlorine and pH testing. I spoke with my supervisors after the work shop and they all agree that it was very informational and they enjoyed the hand- on learning experience. I too enjoyed helping out when we all broke into groups and I enjoyed how much participation was going on throughout the entire workshop. I am of the belief that this is a great way to teach. I would also like to express that we should have more of these types of workshops. It will help to bring the entire industry together as far as harvesting practices go.

I think we all agreed these were excellent sessions and, in the LGMA’s quest for continuous improvement in food safety practices, the workshops were of tremendous value.  The LGMA plans to do more of these kinds of sessions on a number of other topics. We thank those who attended and encourage others throughout the industry to join us for the next round of workshops or to contact us for information.      


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