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Produce Safety Immersion Program

About the Program

The Produce Safety Immersion Program is a year-long program developed to build the technical capacity, critical thinking skills, and leadership attributes of the next generation of produce safety professionals. The program is comprised of webinars, in-person trips, virtual seminars, peer connections, and an ongoing mentorship program, and will focus on developing early-to-mid career professionals with less than five years’ experience in produce safety. 

Applications for the Produce Safety Immersion Program Class 3 are open until Oct. 31st!

Apply for Class 3!

Produce Safety Immersion Informational Program Webinar
Tuesday, October 19, 2:00 pm ET/ 11:00 am PT
Zoom Platform

United Fresh is hosting a informational webinar about the Produce Safety Immersion Program on October 19th, 2 pm ET/11 am PT. During this webinar, Jennifer McEntire, Senior VP of Food Safety & Technology at United Fresh, will discuss the origins and description of the Immersion Program, along with the tentative 2022 schedule and application instructions. Alumni and current program members will also share their experience with potential applicants. There will be time for a Q&A session.

Registration is complimentary.

Register for the Immersion Program Webinar

Program Details

Who Should Participate?

Participant Expectations and Responsibilities (pdf) 

Candidates early in their produce safety careers, food safety professionals moving from other food sectors into produce, and members of the produce industry who have recently taken on a food safety role, are encouraged to participate. Participants must be members of United Fresh Produce Association or Produce Marking Association.

Who Should Mentor?

Mentor Expectations and Responsibilities (pdf)

Three to four highly-skilled produce safety professionals will serve as mentors to the program fellows and will accompany them at each meeting over the course of the year. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Katie McGowan at

Additional Information

United Fresh will be hosting a informational webinar about the Produce Safety Immersion Program on October 19th, 2 pm ET/11 am PT. During this webinar, Jennifer McEntire, Senior VP of Food Safety & Technology at United Fresh, will discuss the origins and description of the Immersion Program, along with the tentative 2022 schedule and application instructions. Alumni and current program members will also share their experience with potential applicants. There will be time for a Q&A session.

Register Now!

Schedule of Events

Tentative Schedule of Events

(note: agenda topics are subject to change based on the composition and interests of the cohort)


    • Mandatory 1: Basics of produce safety (micro-bacteria, virus, parasite; chem- pesticide, sanitation, wash water; physical- in processing, minimal)
      • Mandatory 2: Chem: pesticides- regulatory (EPA vs FDA); politics (dirty dozen), overview of uses (outdoor pesticide; sanitation; wash water) 
        • Sanitation chemistry, 7 steps 
        • Wash water cross contamination 
    •  Mandatory 3: History of produce safety
      • Mandatory 4: Basics of outbreak investigation
      • Mandatory 5: Cantaloupe 2011 (issues are Listeria, sanitation/sanitary design, TTCS & pH of cantaloupe)
        • Mandatory 6: EMP-  basics of Listeria, EMP and FAQs
          • Listeria regs/draft guidance
          • Zone 1 testing
        • Sanitary Design 
      • Mandatory 7: Tomato/ pepper 2008 (focus on traceability, Salmonella, risk communication)
        • Outbreak investigation 
        • Traceability/ blockchain 
    •  Mandatory 8: Analyzing and applying scientific research articles and FDA warning letters
    • Leadership Development 


      • Spin 2006 (issues include, E. coli O157, traceability, risk communication, LGMA, defining a “lot”, sampling & testing) 
      • Romaine (2017+) (issues are E. coli, role of WGS, ag water, CAFO)
        • Ag water treatment
        • “super metrics” customer requirements
        • State Depts of Ag /Public Health/AFDO session
      • Cyclospora (relationship with GAPs, lack of methods)
        • Produce safety researcher 
    • First research project
    • Mandatory: Produce safety skill sets 


    • Mandatory: Basics of food law (FDA vs USDA vs EPA; FDA- CFSAN vs ORA; USDA APHIS vs AMS vs FSIS; history of FDA regulations and overview of FSMA rules)
      • FDA enforcement, recalls 
    •  Global issues: audits/GFSI (USDA AMS), ISO, Codex (FDA speaker) etc.
    • Meet in DC with attorneys, consumer group (Pew root cause), FDA (misc topics inc traceability), UDSA


    • Micro test methods (PCR, WGS, culture)
    • Mandatory: Statistics of sampling
    • Mandatory: Making the case to upper management
    • Mandatory: Final reports (with feedback)


Thank you to our program sponsors!

Gold Sponsor 

Silver Sponsor


What our Sponsors are Saying: 

“In the world of fresh produce, food safety professionals feel like our work is never done – because we don’t have a kill-step!  We need to identify those who will continue the work and the Immersion Program is a great start. As one of the mentors in the Immersion Program, I have been pleased to see that these young people have the same passion for produce and food safety as those of us who have been in this field for a long time.  Their eagerness to learn is encouraging since there are always new mitigation strategies and regulations to keep up with.  We have been able to connect them with many experienced people that they will be able to call on for guidance long after they graduate and we are looking forward to doing the same for future classes.-Cheryl Enlow, Renaissance Food Group, Produce Safety Immersion Mentor and Chair of the Food Safety Council 

“ At Ecolab we are united by our purpose to make the world cleaner, safer and healthier – helping businesses succeed while protecting people and the world’s vital resources.  The partnerships we have established with our customers stem from a common belief in maintaining a strong Food Safety Culture.  It is with great pleasure that Ecolab has decided to partner with United Fresh in its first Food Safety Immersion program to help foster the continuation of a strong Food Safety Culture in the produce industry.”   – Brittany Wiebe, Sr. Corporate Account Manager, Ecolab Inc. and Member of the United Fresh Safety Council. 

Class One's Experiences

Class One Activities: 

In March of 2020, the United Fresh Produce Safety Immersion Program developed creative educational opportunities in lieu of the previously scheduled in-person meeting, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Immersion program participants met for 3 one-hour webinars per day in mid-April. Topics ranged from outbreak investigations and the role of state agriculture departments, to berry harvesting and produce safety history. These webinars gave program participants the opportunity to directly engage with senior-level officials, including experts from the FDA, Cornell, and the produce industry. Since then, participants have continued to meet regularly for hangouts and happy hours, sometimes with surprise guests like Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, CEO of Seald Sweet International/Greenyard USA! We look forward to seeing the inaugural class in-person later this year! 

Hear from Class One : 

“Being selected to participate in the United Fresh Produce Safety Immersion Program has been an honor. We have had the opportunity to learn from key individuals from different sectors in the food safety industry, whom have allowed us to ask specific questions to further build our knowledge within the industry. We have also had a chance to learn from each other. This program has allowed us to build not only business relationships, but friendships as well. We know that we can reach out to our class members, our mentors and the panel who led discussions about any questions we may have. This opportunity has given me additional confidence to play a more active role within the industry.” – Kristina Schoen, Highland Ag. Solutions

Being a participant in the United Fresh Immersion Program has truly been an invaluable experience. My peers and I have had the opportunity to interact with and learn from some of the best and brightest experts in the industry. The professional knowledge and growth that the inaugural class will walk away with after this year, will set the stage for the future of food safety and I could not be more excited about it!”– Taylor Livingston, Titan Farms 

“Being a part of the Produce Safety Immersion Program has given me tools that I will be able to take with me throughout my career. Technical skills are always useful but what I love most about the program is the connection and unity it has given me between my peers. We have been handed a network of food safety individuals to which we can contact to share thoughts, comments, questions, and even laughs. Having the responsibility of ensuring safe food is daunting. But having a network of people to help me navigate through choices and decisions gives me the confidence in myself and my food safety program.” – Jackie Hawkins, BrightFarms 

The Immersion Program has been an incredible opportunity to meet fellow produce food safety professionals to discuss current challenges and solutions to improve produce food safety throughout the supply chain. The class along with mentors and special guest speakers ooze a passion for produce safety that makes me believe anything is truly possible with effective collaboration.” – Shelby Chih, Renaissance Farms 

“I have really enjoyed my experience so far as part of the United Fresh Produce Safety Immersion Program! I appreciate all of the food safety experts and produce industry leaders that have taken the time to speak with us about developing ourselves as produce safety professionals and for giving us the technical knowledge and tools that we can use in our careers. Thank you to United Fresh for hosting the program, RFG and Ecolab for sponsoring the program, and North Bay Produce for investing in and supporting the advancement of food safety!” – Kinsey Porter, North Bay Produce

“This program has highlighted the increasing importance of understanding that Food Safety isn’t just a job it’s a lifestyle and a culture that must be lived out daily with a focus on collaboration and not individualism. The immersion program is the first step in establishing this line of thought within young produce food safety professionals and I’m glad to be a part of that. This is only further reinforced with the focus of the FDA’s on building a new era of smarter food safety.”– Ken Dreyer, Decon7 

Additional Resources

Present-Day Food Safety Leadership Advice for Future Food Safety Leaders (August-September, 2019; Food Safety Magazine) 

Building Food Safety Leaders (April-May, 2015; Food Safety Magazine) 

Food Safety Matters Podcast feat. Lone Jeperson: “Culture Comes First” (June 13, 2017; Food Safety Magazine)

For questions about the program or to be notified when the applications for Class 3 open, contact Katie McGowan, United Fresh’s Manager of Food Safety Programs, at 202.303.3402.