The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission said in April it received the 2010 NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Training.

The award, from Ann Arbor, Mich.-based certification and auditing firm NSF International, recognizes foodservice participants who are making a “real and lasting impact” in food-safety practices, said Carolyn O’Donnell, the commission’s communications director.

O’Donnell said the commission’s food safety guidelines have roots that stretch to 1998 and have evolved to include training program and instructional materials for supervisors and harvest workers in the field.

The commission’s safety program, “Food Safety Practices for Strawberry Harvest Workers,” was developed to address specific needs of strawberry growers around training harvest workers on best practices and includes printed materials and guidelines on display in the field and a workshop for supervisors.

There was also a workshop for teaching best practices to field workers and a workshop focused on best practices geared toward the processor market, O’Donnell said.

“We have identified two things that needed particular attention,” she said.

“One is sometimes the growers speak neither English nor Spanish, or very little Spanish, anyway. We needed a way to convey training that wasn’t language-dependent.

“We created a three-ring binder that sits on the back of a pickup truck. The supervisor can stand up. It doesn’t need (to) plug in or screen. It’s basically line drawings of scenes on a ranch and demonstrates food safety-related behaviors.”

The program is still evolving, she added.

“We train growers, but really the supervisors, about food-safety information and all the behaviors they need their crew to follow in the field,” O’Donnell said.

“We are also training them how to be trainers. These guys move up, and sometimes that’s a tough place, to be telling former coworkers how to do things.”

The commission launched the current phase of the safety program about a year ago and, as of early April, had conducted training sessions for about 80% of the industry, O’Donnell said.

Growers also are getting revised food safety procedures this season, O’Donnell said.

“Everything came out of an industrywide risk assessment we did about two years ago,” she said. “Food safety is really moving along for us.”