Food Safety Training for Iowa Turkey Growers

Terry L. Steinhart, Field Specialist/Swine, Eastern Iowa


The U.S. food safety regulatory system has developed over a period spanning more than a century.  The regulatory focus has shifted from an overriding concern about filth and fraud to issues regarding food safety as it relates to wholesomeness and control of contaminants, particularly those of chemical and microbiological origin.

The Iowa Turkey Growers Cooperative (West Liberty Foods) requested assistance from Iowa State University (ISU) Extension in developing and delivering Food Safety Training for potential employees in their new plant in Mt. Pleasant as well as food safety training for corporate and current employees at sites in Sigourney and West Liberty. 


ISU Extension responded to this request and developed 3 levels of Food safe training.  Training has been ongoing since April 2003.  The May 2004 issue of the National Provisioner (a trade magazine for the food processing industry) featured Iowa-based West Liberty Foods’ approach to food-safety.  ISU professionals were cited as providing job applicants with a 16-hour-food safety training course before the job candidate obtained a position at the plant.


When selected at random for an interview by a reporter for the National Provisioner magazine, Diana Mendez, a successful candidate on the job at the plant for nine months, said, WLF’s food-safety course not only prepared her for a position in the company’s Mt. Pleasant plant, it also changed her home habits. “After seeing the movie about the dangers of bacteria, I’m a lot cleaner at home,” Mendez, says.  “I know how important it is to wash my hands after going to the bathroom because I could contaminate my family.”  When directing her comments about the plant Mendez notes, “You have to be clean personally, that’s most important,” she says.  “You have to wash your hands all the time and wear proper gear.  You can’t touch garbage or your own face.  If you go to another place in the plant, you have to change everything so you don’t contaminate the food.” 

When asked what she knew about specific pathogens, pausing only a moment, Mendez began listing what she learned beginning with Listeria, “ They told us that’s a very bad one because it makes people sick and they can die.”


March 17, 2005
121 -- Adding Value and Enhancing Agricultural Products

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