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International award for online food safety resource
Professor Hamish Gow.
An open source Food Safety Knowledge Network devised by a Massey University Professor has won a major international award for improving food safety practices in developing countries.
Professor of Agribusiness Hamish Gow oversaw the development of the network that has been recognised with the international effective practice award by the Sloan Consortium.
He worked with a team at Michigan State University on the project that provides Third World food producers free and open access to best practice food safety guidelines.
“The project got started when I was director of Partnerships for Food Industry Development,” he says. “We needed a more effective and scalable model for reaching small and medium enterprises and farmers in developing countries with extension and capacity building.”
The network provides a set of steps that any producer can access that will take them from no food safety capacity to meeting international standards, Professor Gow says.
“We approached the Global Food Safety Initiative, a group comprising some of the biggest food producers in the world, and put together some technical working groups to create the competency requirements,” he says. “This involved four or five companies putting their food safety training manuals on the table. We built a set of training materials that are now available online and through regional and international consultants.”
The network appears to have had pleasing results, with anecdotal evidence showing there has been a big impact on food safety in some countries. “In Ukraine, I’m told, they have gone from 20 per cent compliance to 90 per cent,” he says.
Professor Gow says it is a model that is perfectly suited for knowledge transfer in the New Zealand agricultural sector. “This is a different type of model for engagement. It could help solve the extension problem with disseminating the latest research and best practices to farmers in an easily accessible manner out of Massey and other research organisations. It’s an advanced way of writing a textbook that has a lot more impact.”
Professor Gow’s work fits well with other projects at the University including the World Bank project that has seen public health and veterinary professionals taught master’s programmes through distance programmes devised and offered by Massey staff. The University has also begun offering short courses to Agribusiness managers in a joint initiative with Lincoln University.
The Sloan Consortium is an institutional and professional leadership organisation dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education.