Food Safety Program Launched

On January 9, 2017, following nearly two years of intensive preparation work, with support from USAID and the InnovATE/Armenia project (led by Project Director Angela Neilan), ICARE launched a Food Safety Systems Management (FSSM) Professional Certificate Program. The course is conducted by renowned experts from partner U.S. universities: Dr. Catherine Cutter, Professor of Food Science and Assistant Director of Food Safety & Quality Programs at Penn State; and Dr. Siroj Pokharel, a Post-Doctoral Scholar and Advisor at Penn State. Marina Vardanyan, Mission Environmental Officer at USAID Armenia, and Vardan Urutyan, ICARE Director, met with students and helped to launch the program on January 9.

The condensed hands-on course includes six modules to be taught during four weeks (one module for each week):

  • Introduction to Food Safety
  • Sanitation
  • Food Microbiology
  • Better Process Control Systems
  • Food Defense

“This is the “tastiest” course we have ever had at ATC,” said student Razmik Simonyan. Students in the Food Safety Systems Management program meet from 9 am till 5 pm daily.  )

During the first week, students studied the importance of water activity in raw meat and in processed products, such as jerky; learned how to evaluate emulsification and the quality of flour while making pizza; did a sensory evaluation of dairy products; canned fruits and made salsa and jam, taking into consideration acidification and caramelization. The first week was concluded with a field trip to the Armenia Wine Company on Friday, January 13.

Food safety is a very serious issue in Armenia, especially if the country wants to significantly expand the export of its food products and strengthen Armenia’s agriculture sector. The Food Safety Systems Management course will enable ICARE students to introduce international food safety standards into Armenia’s food industry. Three well-known Armenian food safety experts are co-teaching the course with their American colleagues and will take over teaching responsibilities next year: Zaruhi Davtyan and Sergey Chakhmakhchyan are from the Food Safety department of CARD (the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development) Foundation, and Davit Pipoyan is an instructor at the EVN Wine Academy.

Angela Neilan, Director of the InnovATE/Armenia project, has led the establishment of this exciting new course at ICARE and provides day-to-day management of its inaugural debut at ICARE.