AMES, Iowa – Helping the produce industry and consumers enjoy a safe, quality product is the goal of Andre Salazar, newly hired education extension specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
According to Salazar, food safety and quality should be something consumers rely on without much thought. However, for that to happen, the industry does have to give it some thought.
Salazar will help educate the industry about the Produce Safety Rule found in the Food Safety Modernization Act – federal legislation designed to reduce or eliminate the risk of food contamination with infectious microorganisms from produce that is typically eaten raw.
Some of those things are technical, according to Salazar, but the standards are doable and essential to keep both food and people safe.
“Regulations aren’t there to put you out of business – they’re there to assure safety of the consumer,” he said. “Our food should conform to a consistent standard so that you never question its wholesomeness or what you are buying from a store or restaurant.”
Salazar brings an extensive background to the position, having grown up in a southern California produce farming community, where he harvested produce in summer jobs, conducted scientific research with infectious microorganisms, and worked in both public and private sectors in public health and food safety.
He believes his background will help him engage with industry and consumers as he answers questions and educates Iowans from farm to table about the benefits of the new produce safety rules and practices.
“The producers and the industry are already knowledgeable about what they’re doing,” Salazar said. “What I hope to do is be able to talk to the individual and relate complex concepts in a form they understand and can work with.”
Angela Shaw, associate professor in food science and human nutrition and extension food safety specialist at Iowa State, said Salazar’s past will help him in this role.
“Andre has a background in produce production and microbiology and has worked with food safety topics from the farm through the grocery store,” said Shaw. “These experiences will be essential to providing extension programs with real-life scenarios that can support active learning.”
Salazar said as industry and consumers gain more understanding about the safety of their food, then their confidence will increase regarding the quality of their food.
“Quite often, opinions and thoughts about food safety are sensationalized by events that frighten people,” said Salazar. “When you don’t understand something there is fear, but the goal is to provide education so that people have an understanding and eliminate the fear.”
For more information, Andre Salazar can be reached at 515-294-2552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shareable photo: Andre Salazar.