The U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will transform the nation’s food safety system into one that is based on the prevention of foodborne illness. It will be a system in which the food industry systematically puts in place measures proven effective in preventing contamination. Thus, food industry training will be an important component of successful implementation.
In 2015, recognizing the need for food safety training for small farm owners and food processors, the FDA and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Grant Program, intended to provide funding so that these critical groups receive training, education and technical assistance consistent with standards being established under FSMA. Grants issued through this program will fund a National Coordination Center (NCC) and four Regional Centers (RCs), which will be involved in both key components of training—primarily facilitating training delivery but also, in certain situations, facilitating curricula development targeted to specific audiences.
In October, 2015, FDA announced that the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) of Battle Creek, Michigan, received the award to establish the National Coordination Center. Also in October, NIFA announced the awards for the first two regional centers. The University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, received the grant to establish the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety. Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, received the grant to establish the Western Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Food Safety.
The second two regional Centers were named on February 18. Iowa State University has received the grant to establish the North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance and the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College has received the grant to establish The Northeast Center for Food Safety, Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance.
The goal of FSMA training programs will be the outcome – advancing knowledge among food producers to meet FSMA requirements. Specifically, the regional centers will be charged with understanding and communicating the landscape of training opportunities available to target businesses in their region. They will identify any need to develop or tailor curricula to meet specific unmet regional needs and/or to target a specific audience. These centers will work with representatives from non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as representatives from cooperative extension services, food hubs, local farm cooperatives and other entities that can address specific needs of the communities they serve.