North Carolina digitizes environmental monitoring for dairy processors

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

The researchers' goal is to develop affordable and effective training to spread food safety best practices, and keep small businesses successful. Pic: Getty/BrianAJackson
The researchers' goal is to develop affordable and effective training to spread food safety best practices, and keep small businesses successful. Pic: Getty/BrianAJackson

Related tags: Food safety, Dairy processors, Dairy farmers, Dairy products

A new online training course from North Carolina State University is designed for dairy processors. It helps improve their environmental monitoring programs (EMP) for better food safety and pathogen control.

Researchers behind the course used adaptive learning and studied novel food safety training while developing ‘Environmental Monitoring in the Dairy Industry.’​ It teaches students skills for creating EMPs in manufacturing facilities.

PhD candidate Stephanie Maggio led the research from Dr Clint Stevenson’s lab in NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The lab focuses on novel ways to train people, and they have worked with dairy processors, local breweries and even chocolate shops in their courses.

Maggio told DairyReporter that it is their goal to develop affordable and effective training to spread food safety best practices, and keep small businesses successful. They utilize online training because it’s versatile, affordable and flexible.

The EMP training course allows the student complete it at their own pace, with no time limits or deadlines throughout. It’s a total of nine hours and can be segmented for different needs. Maggio said this is attractive especially to small business owners who need the most flexibility in their schedules.

“We’re researching what’s the most effective way to design these trainings so there is behavior change,”​ she said.

Maggio ran needs-analysis research before developing the course, and found most small dairy operations are trying to ‘do the right thing’ to implement proper food safety plans and EMPs. But they don’t have the resources, and don’t know where to start.

There were two prominent groups of dairy processors in Maggio’s research - those who have been in the industry for more than 20 years, and those around for less than five years. Through each question, the course software determines which group each student belongs in.

It’s specific to knowledge and experience levels as well as dairy categories. The course can take students through cheese or ice cream case studies, for example, leaning on the dairy processor angle.

But Maggio has seen many food safety consultants sign up for the course, which was partially funded by the North Carolina Dairy Foundation, and even people outside dairy. She believes the concepts can be applied to any industry.

An EMP is required by law by the FDA, under the Food Safety and Modernization Act of 2011. It’s necessary for anyone producing a ready-to-eat product that's exposed to the environment, to protect from cross contamination.

Maggio said their course awards students a certificate of completion to keep for their records and show they have had training in environmental monitoring.

The ‘Environmental Monitoring in the Dairy Industry’ course is ongoing and available for registration. It’s valued at $225, but the discount code ‘EMP75’ will take 75% off that price. It is also being offered free to dairy processors based in North Carolina, who can contact Maggio​ for more information.

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