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Shell Egg Academy Provides Food Safety Practices for Employees in Laying Hen Production and Egg Processing Plants

As a result of a national needs assessment for the poultry industry, two critical needs were identified: Food safety in table egg production; and coordinated and consistent training for employees in the industry. A national board was formed of individuals from industry, stakeholder organizations, and academia, including Purdue Extension, to collaborate and coordinate training. Purdue Extension developed the Shell Egg Academy with a holistic approach, recognizing the food safety connection between live production houses (laying hens) and egg processing plants. Two training tracks were created – live production and processing. Academy goals were for poultry industry employees to gain knowledge of good management practices, and to become aware of resource individuals/ experts who can be contacted for future assistance.

Academy training started in 2019. The 2020 iteration was canceled due to the pandemic. Purdue Extension transformed the 2021 academy to a six-hour virtual program delivered daily for a week. Participants were mailed a “Laboratory in a Box” (LAB), supported by sponsors and allied industries, which included a light for candling eggs, a book compiling all USDA and FDA regulations from the Federal Registry, and eight swab types for sample collection. In 2022, the Academy was offered as two distinct programs: virtually and in person. In addition, the virtual program and associated educational materials were offered in Spanish to significantly increase reach. The in-person event targeted upper-level management of egg producers, allowing for enhanced networking and focusing on case studies about key topics

A total of 82 poultry employees from across the U.S. attended the virtual or in-person training. A total of 164 poultry industry employees have attended the Academy training, with 86% earning a certificate of competency. In a survey, participants (n=18; 10% response rate) indicated that over half (56%) adopted recommended food safety practices, resulting in increased operating efficiencies or increased value per unit of output. Participants indicated information from the Academy was applied for updating vaccine programs, training subordinates, and enhancing understanding of FDA expectations for audits. As a result of the training, three-quarters (78%) indicated they contribute more to the success of the poultry facility, over half (57%) agreed the training played an important role in achieving new benefits or results in their job, workplace or career, and one-third (35%) reported being more proactive in engaging with regulatory agencies. Purdue Extension’s Shell Egg Academy (www.shelleggacademy. org) is developing food safety knowledge and practices of employees in laying hen production and egg processing plants.

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