This World Food Safety Day, U.S. Volunteer Lends Expertise in Food Safety to Georgian Communities

| Dr. Aliyar Cyrus Fouladkhah, ACDI/VOCA Volunteer

Dr. Aliyar Cyrus Fouladkhah is faculty director of the Public Health Microbiology Foundation, based in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a graduate of the food science and human nutrition master’s and food microbiology doctoral programs of Colorado State University, from which he also holds a graduate certificate in applied statistics and data analysis. He completed public health training through Yale University’s Advanced Professional Master’s in Public Health program.

To share his expertise, he recently volunteered in the country of Georgia with ACDI/VOCA through an assignment sponsored by the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia and the Public Health Microbiology Foundation. Read about his experience in Georgia below and learn more about volunteering with ACDI/VOCA.

Ensuring Better Food Safety in Zugdidi, Georgia

It was a great pleasure and lifetime honor for me to come to the culturally rich and beautiful country of Georgia for a three-week volunteer assignment. It was a timely experience, especially as we prepare to celebrate World Food Safety Day on June 7. This day honors the great work and collaboration among members in academia, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and private industries to ensure safety against foodborne diseases. It also offers a moment for us to reflect on what opportunities exist within private industry to mitigate the risk of microbial, chemical, and physical hazards associated with food commodities.

For my assignment, I traveled to the city of Zugdidi, in the northwestern region of Georgia. Zugdidi is home to roughly 42,000 Georgians who are historically underserved due to their long distance from the capital city of Tbilisi and its resources. My assignment was to provide food safety training to members of the Association for Agriculture Development in Zugdidi. By building their capacity in the areas of microbiological testing and regulatory compliance, the association, and the region itself, could ensure better safety and more exports of the regional food commodities that are much needed in the world today.

Dr. Aliyar Cyrus Fouladkhah leads a “Climate Change, Transboundary Diseases Epidemiology & FSMA Preventive Control Qualified Individual Workshop” in Zugdidi, Georgia, in May 2022

The Crisis in Ukraine Spurs New Food Challenges

The current unfortunate conflict between the courageous people of Ukraine and unmerited Russian occupiers and the subsequent food security challenges is evidence of that need. This crisis is another reminder of the importance of global food production and manufacturing infrastructure for international commerce and prosperity, as now several nations bear the consequences of the conflict. The war has worsened food insecurity, and some countries may face famine as a result. Active conflict has cut off exports from Ukraine’s ports, reducing the global food supply and causing food prices to soar.

New Procedures and Stewardship of Regional Food Lab

Upon arriving the week of May 16, I oversaw an intensive, interactive course on important food safety information, the impact of climate change on food security, and transboundary infectious diseases. That week, I also worked with colleagues to develop a form to assess the needs of the association and the region for testing methodologies in their regional lab.

In addition, the following week, I spent time in their lab establishing detailed microbiology testing procedures and sharing them with lab staff through hands-on activities. These procedures will assist the association in starting to test food commodities for ensured safety.

During my third and final week in Georgia, I helped develop and share an antibiotic stewardship program. Lab staff received assistance with ongoing instrumentation in the microbiology lab to ensure their proper operation and maintenance. Details of these procedures can be found on the Public Health Microbiology Laboratory website.

A Shared Goal of Public Health

I would like to thank the colleagues in the Washington, D.C., and Tbilisi offices of ACDI/VOCA and Farmer-to-Farmer and the Public Health Microbiology Foundation for all they have done to support this timely and highly productive assignment in Georgia. I commend the host institution for their willingness to learn and implement these new procedures and protect the public’s health.

Learn more about ACDI/VOCA’s Volunteer Programs and browse current opportunities.

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