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Produce Safety Immersion Program

About the Program

The new United Fresh 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 three face-to-face meetings/trainings, three webinars, and an ongoing mentorship program, and will focus on developing early-to-mid career professionals with less than five years’ experience in produce safety.

Meet Class One!


Program Details

Who Should Participate?

The application period closed on November 1, 2019.

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.

Who Should Mentor?

Mentor Expectations and Responsibilities (pdf) 

Five 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.

Tentative Schedule of Events

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

Orientation: FreshStart Conference, Jan 2020

  • Introductions to each other and mentors
  • Overview of the year ahead
  • Goal setting

Webinar 1: Back to the Basics of Micro

  • Bacteria, viruses, parasites
  • Growth factors
  • Cell structure (DNA, RNA, ATP)
    • Application to ATP swabs, WGS, etc.

Experience 2: Microbiological Testing; Location TBD; Tentatively the week of April 20, 2020 (2-3 days)

  • Overview of testing methods (culture, DNA, RNA based)
  • Sample preparation and handling (influence of buffers, sanitizers, temperature)
  • Statistics of sampling
  • Hands-on micro experience (plates, petri film, PCR, etc.)
  • 1-2 Mentor examples of journal club or research reports

Webinar 2: Chemicals, Chemistries and Antimicrobials (2-3 days)

  • EPA vs FDA regulation of chemicals
  • Pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides
  • Safety, toxicity, and MRL establishment

Experience 3: Using Food Safety Tools; Location TBD; Tentatively the week of July 20,­­­, 2020 (2-3 days)

  • Water chemistry and monitoring
    • Mechanisms of action
    • Influential parameters and validation
    • Preharvest vs postharvest water management
  • Assessing new technology
  • Pilot plant swabbing
  • Trending data, use of software
  • Communicating results to upper management
  • 1-2 Mentor examples of journal club or research reports

Webinar 3: Regulations & Standards

  • US regulations: FDA, USDA, states (Food Code)
  • Global regulations (CFIA, EFSA)
  • Global harmonization
    • Codex (governmental)
    • ISO, GFSI (private)

Experience 4: Washington DC, September 21-23, 2020 (in conjunction with the Washington Conference)

  • Meet with FDA
    • Outbreak investigation process
    • Root cause analysis
  • Meet with food law attorneys
    • Liability
  • Comparison of private food safety audit standards
  • Present journal club or research projects
  • Presentation to FS&T Council
  • Graduation from the program

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)

Thank you to our program sponsors!

Gold Sponsor 

RFG Logo

Silver Sponsor


For questions about the program, contact Katie McGowan, United Fresh’s Food Safety Coordinator, at 202.303.3402.