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New Mexico State University

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Extension Offices To Offer Safety Training for Food Processors

LAS CRUCES - Businesses that process food for the public, from massive cheese plants to small-scale herb farms, are invited to participate in training Jan. 13 to help protect the food supply.

Billy Dictson, New Mexico State University's homeland security training coordinator, said the Foodgard training is intended for anyone who produces, processes, handles or transports food.

"This is about becoming more attentive, more vigilant as you run your facility," Dictson said. "Businesses can help themselves by becoming more aware of their security."

Although the issue of food safety has recently made national headlines, members of the Biosecurity Working Group in New Mexico began planning the food processor training months ago as a follow-up to an initial biosecurity training offered in December 2003. That session drew about 500 participants.

"We determined one of the biggest needs in New Mexico was to provide awareness training for food processors, to assist them in safeguarding their facility against intentional or unintentional biosecurity risks," Dictson said.

The working group includes the Cooperative Extension Service, New Mexico Specialty Foods Association, InfraGard New Mexico Members Alliance, FBI, U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico, New Mexico Department of Agriculture and the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department.

The Foodgard training program will be offered at NMSU Cooperative Extension Service offices across the state. About 600 food processors have been invited to the training, which will be from 8:30 to 11 a.m. via an interactive Internet presentation. Those wishing to attend can sign up by contacting their nearest Extension office. Registration deadline is Jan. 6.

In Doņa Ana County, the Extension training site will be in the conference room at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture building, 3190 S. Espina St.

The awareness training will be followed by more in-depth training sessions for specific groups of food processors.

For more information, contact the county Extension office or Dictson at (505) 646-4402.