CALS Offers New Food Safety Undergraduate Degree

Friday, December 15, 2017

Education in the food industry has become increasingly vital in our ever-evolving modern-day era. A breach in food safety can mean catastrophe for both individuals and businesses. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans gets sick from contaminated foods or beverages with about 3,000 dying annually. These food safety issues have brought companies to the realization that not just any employee can be assigned food safety duties, as their background may not be sufficient for the responsibilities.  It goes without saying, then, that the need for employees trained in food safety will only continue to grow, especially as new challenges arise in the food safety industry.

To meet these demands, the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences (ACBS) has created a new bachelor’s degree program in food safety, available beginning fall 2018. The interdisciplinary program includes faculty and courses from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health in addition to four other units within CALS: The Department of Nutritional Sciences; Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science; School of Plant Sciences; and Department of Entomology. By bringing these experts and educators together, students will graduate from the program with expansive knowledge of the entire food safety domain.  

“The new food safety degree is vitally important in the educational preparation and workforce development that will lead students into the agriculture food safety industry,” said Tanya Hodges, the regional academic coordinator for the University of Arizona in Yuma and La Paz counties in Arizona and Imperial County in California.  “Most jobs involved in food safety require advanced and very specific science and math competencies that can only be gained through very specific coursework. [Yet] Food safety is a relatively new concept and profession.” In addition to UA’s general education requirements, the curriculum will be composed of 10 core food safety courses with additional electives courses available in areas of specialization, including produce, animal production, public health and more. These courses will enable students to develop a broad perspective for food safety, epidemiology, food toxicology and legalities in the food industry.

A vital advocate for the degree program, André-Denis Wright, the director of ACBS, ensured the program’s creation due to his belief that it would provide students opportunities to flourish in a growing industry: “This new food safety program presents students with an opportunity to gain an education with an integrated food safety curriculum designed to provide them with the necessary knowledge and problem-solving skills to thrive in tomorrow’s food safety-related ‘food industry’ workplace. Students completing this program will have a unique and highly desirable credential, which will likely provide them a competitive edge in the marketplace.” Food-safety students will have new opportunities across local, state and federal entities within the industry, including those already in a food safety position.

Faculty and staff in the program anticipate that professionals already working in the industry will pursue this degree to update their food safety knowledge or gain a new edge within their career. To address their needs, a distance learning program for the major will be offered in Yuma—the nation’s third-largest vegetable producer that supplies 90 percent of the nation’s leafy greens between November and March. With the area producing more than 175 different crops and seeds, and accounting for more than a third of Arizona’s total agricultural revenue, the distance learning format is designed to accommodate these professionals so they don’t have to relocate. Distance learning students will attend UA classes in real-time using Adobe Connect and D2L so they can experience the class environment available to Tucson students. Arrangements are also being made to offer classes with hands-on components at local community college facilities in Yuma to provide further 100% engagement opportunities.

Applications for this exciting new program are available now.

André-Denis Wright
Director, Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences
Extra Info

Arizona provides an ideal location for food safety studies and internships relating to the overall food sector and various food industries.

  • Arizona is the nation's largest winter producer of leafy greens and vegetables.
  • Livestock production and ranching contribute $1.7 billion to the state's economic output.
  • Arizona dairy production is ranked 13th in the nation.
  • Producers of poultry, eggs, juices, citrus fruit, tree nuts and more are all important contributors to the state's economy.

Advantages for students:

  • Access to growers, producers, distributors and manufacturers of a wide variety of products
  • Proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border for further understanding of cross-border procedures and compliances with the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations
  • Preparation to work across a range of environments and locations

Food safety degree: