YUMA, Ariz. – As the saying goes, you are what you eat. But each year Center for Disease Control reports one in six Americans get sick from a food-borne illness. That’s 48 million people. And in extreme cases the diseases can kill. So it’s up to the agriculture industry to prevent such catastrophes. To learn more about the hot button issue, industry leaders met in Yuma Wednesday at the first-ever Desert Produce Safety Collaborative Field Conference.
Organizer and Food Safety Specialist, Paula Rivadeneira, said, “We’re doing networking activities to make people talk to each other to make those connections so maybe they can make new collaborations in food safety.”
A grant through the University of Arizona paid for the free experience. Agriculture workers not only listened in on food safety measures, but got hands-on experience. Sam Padilla, an agriculture student at Arizona Western College said, “That is really something that got my interest because it’s something that we are, when I work with the company, it’s always something that we’re going to have to meet in order to stay in business.”
Food safety researchers demonstrated animal trapping techniques, a key method to preventing disease in the fields. Another workshop taught how to gather water samples to test for contamination. These group activities allowed for people within the agriculture industry to learn from each other.
“Well this is a great opportunity here to network and find other sources of information so that I can relay that back to growers,” said Joshua Sherman, a Commercial Horticulture Agent.