The Arizona Leafy Greens consortium is rolling out an initiative to educate field workers in safe food handling practices to ensure the integrity of leafy greens grown and shipped from Arizona.

Food safety training is a major component of the industry-wide good agricultural practices program.

"Since the formal inception of this program in 2007, our third-party audits have revealed that most of the infractions happen at the field level," said Vicki-Lynne Scott, technical subcommittee chairperson and board member of the Arizona Leafy Greens Products Shipper Marketing Agreement.

"We developed a program that really drives home the importance of safety training while keeping in mind the very different cultural attributes of Hispanic workers, which make up the majority of those in the field."

The Food Safety Training Kit is a bilingual food safety training program aimed at employees in the leafy greens industry developed by Sergio Nieto-Montenegro of Hispanic Workforce Management, LLC in El Paso, Texas.

Nieto-Montenegro is known for expertise in developing culturally relevant food safety training programs. He developed training programs for workers on mushroom farms, USDA- inspected meat and poultry processing plants, and the retail industry.

"This is an easy to use program that can be used by anyone who is responsible for training employees," Nieto-Montenegro said. "It can be taught in a training room with a Powerpoint, or using a flip chart on the tailgate of a truck."

The program is designed for harvest supervisors and foremen, food safety coordinators, production supervisors, quality control personnel, extension educators, and other industry consultants who conduct food safety training on leafy greens farms. It is specifically targeted at those who handle leafy greens before, during, or after harvest.

The lessons are presented in English and Spanish.

The Arizona Leafy Greens Products Shipper Marketing Agreement is a consortium of shippers of Arizona leafy greens produce that have protective controls in place to ensure the integrity of leafy greens products grown and shipped from Arizona.

Arizona's leafy greens industry provides 75 percent of the leafy greens consumed in the United States and Canada from November through March. The $1 billion industry employs approximately 20,000 workers.

Arizona Leafy Greens is comprised of 90 percent of the state's growers and shippers in a volunteer network to proactively diffuse potential issues through an intricate system of checks and balances.

The program is administered by the Arizona Department of Agriculture and closely monitored by USDA-licensed inspectors.

For more information, visit www.azlgma.gov.