Presentation at International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting July 31 – August 3, 2011
Industry-damaging foodborne outbreaks have affected the produce industry with increasing magnitude since the mid 1990s. The speed of information flow, facilitated by online discussion, has damaging effects for ill-prepared industries. Addressing food safety for an individual firm includes the ability to manage and respond to a crisis when stakeholders and media are challenging practices and responses.
Evidence-based workshops utilizing a simulated outbreak situation were developed to expose produce industry members to common actions and potential pitfalls in a crisis. The purpose was to teach good outbreak management practices and encourage participants to enact crisis management plans. This role-play tool immerses participants in an on-going outbreak situation prompting interaction with facilitators to gain knowledge instead of lecture directed content.
Using a quasi-experimental summative evaluation construct, the effectiveness of the role-play approach was evaluated. A survey of the pre-workshop crisis preparation of industry groups was administered. This data was supplemented with an evaluation of the workshops conducted through self-reported pre/post-tests using a Likert scale and in-depth interviews at 1-month post-intervention using open-ended questions.
Survey results (n=123) demonstrated only 23% of growers had a crisis management plan in place prior to attendance compared to 81% who employed GAPs. Following the workshop, there was a significant increase in participants’ perception of how important it is to be prepared for a crisis and the likelihood of their products being contaminated with microbial hazards. In follow-up interviews, participants reported an increase in crisis planning and identifying areas needed for improvement as a result of attendance.
The role-play was effective in raising awareness of crisis management gaps, increasing preparation through experience and encouraging conversations regarding other management strategies. By simulating a produce-related outbreak participants had the opportunity to respond and discuss the best strategies to deal with a crisis and initiate recovery thus influencing their crisis preparation.