UA offers new undergraduate degree in food safety

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By Debbie Reed, UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

December 4, 2017

Yuma County leafy greens are used as a winter salad bowl in the United States. Product safety is one element of the AU’s new undergraduate food safety study program.
(Photo: Debbie Reed)

A breach of food safety can be catastrophic for individuals and businesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans get sick from contaminated food or drink, and 3,000 die each year. The US Department of Agriculture estimates foodborne illnesses cost $ 15.6 billion annually.

Education in the food industry is becoming more and more important as companies realize that they cannot simply hand over food safety tasks to someone who is already on staff and who may not have. not have sufficient training for the position. The stakes are too high. In one of the worst cases, 33 people died and 147 fell ill from a listeriosis outbreak in 2011 attributed to cantaloupe grown near Rocky Ford, Colorado. Cantaloupe had been shipped to 28 states. Even without health consequences, a serious recall alone could put a business out of business.

The need for trained food safety employees will continue to grow as food safety challenges continue to change. Tanya hodges is the regional academic coordinator for the University of Arizona in Yuma and La Paz counties in Arizona and Imperial County in California. She says the demand for educated and skilled food safety professions exceeds the numbers of people skilled in these fields and across the United States in general. With food production and the supply chain becoming increasingly global as food is moved around the world, skilled graduates will be needed in all facets of the industry.

To meet this demand, the AU has created a new Bachelor of Food Safety program, which will begin in fall 2018. The program is hosted at the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The interdisciplinary program includes faculty and courses from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, ACBS, and four other CALS units: the Department of Nutritional Sciences; Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences; School of Plant Sciences; and Department of Entomology.

By bringing together experts and educators already working on food safety and its applications in each of these areas, students graduating from the program will gain knowledge across the entire field of food safety.

In his letter of support for the program, Hodges says, “The new food safety degree is vitally important in the educational preparation and workforce development that will lead students to the food safety industry. agricultural. What most don’t realize is that most jobs involved in food safety require advanced, very specific science and math skills that can only be learned through very specific courses. Food safety is a relatively new concept and profession.

In addition to the general AU education requirements, the curriculum includes 10 core courses that form the basis of food safety education. Students will develop a global perspective of food safety, epidemiology, food toxicology and legal aspects of the food industry.

With the help of their advisor, students will also select elective courses in food safety according to their area of ​​interest. Areas of specialization may include products, animal production, public health, food science, and microbiology.

“This new food safety program provides students with the opportunity to acquire an education with an integrated food safety program designed to provide them with the necessary problem-solving knowledge and skills to thrive in the workplace. tomorrow related to the food safety of “the food industry”, ” said the director of ACBS André-Denis Wright. “Students who complete this program will have a unique and highly desirable degree, which is likely to provide them with a competitive edge in the marketplace. Careers can be found in local, state and federal agencies, public health, universities, and industry. . “

To meet the acute need for food safety professionals, a distance learning program in food safety will be offered at Yuma. Yuma County is the third largest vegetable producer in the country and supplies 90 percent of the country’s leafy vegetables between November and March. The region produces more than 175 different crops and seeds and accounts for over a third of Arizona’s total farm income. The distance learning format is designed to accommodate professionals working in the Yuma region who wish to further their career by obtaining a degree in food safety.

Distance students will attend UA courses in real time using Adobe Connect and D2L, giving them the same classroom experience as students in Tucson without having to relocate. Arrangements are made to offer classes with hands-on elements at the facilities of the local community college in Yuma.

“We are delighted to be the first to offer a major that examines overall food security in Arizona,” said Sadhana Ravishankar, Associate Professor of ACBS and Chair of the University Food Safety Program Planning Committee. “This program will produce scientists who can be part of the workforce in Arizona, the United States and around the world.”

Applications for the Food Safety Diploma Program are currently available.

Additional information

Arizona provides an ideal location for food safety studies and internships related to the entire food industry and various food industries.

  • Arizona is the nation’s largest winter producer of leafy greens and vegetables.
  • Animal production and ranching contribute $ 1.7 billion to the state’s economic output.
  • Arizona dairy production is ranked 13th in the country.
  • Producers of poultry, eggs, juices, citrus fruits, nuts and more are all significant contributors to the state’s economy.

Benefits for students:

  • Access to producers, producers, distributors and manufacturers of a wide variety of products
  • Proximity to the US-Mexico border for a better understanding of cross-border procedures and compliance with new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations
  • Preparation to work in a range of environments and locations

Food Safety Diploma: https://foodsafety.arizona.edu/

Careers: https://foodsafety.arizona.edu/careers


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