New Initiative Will Improve Safety of Nation’s Food Supply
Through a grant funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the institute’s Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness (CAFSP) will develop and deliver high quality training to food safety officials at the local, state and national levels. Projected to be funded at $6.6 million across five years, this work is in support of high priority needs of the National Integrated Food Safety System. The goal is to achieve consistent, quality food inspection throughout all 50 states and U.S. territories.
The work builds upon the center’s core competencies in developing food safety and defense training courses for a national audience. The Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies have funded this previous work. The new training courses will draw upon that previously developed curriculum as well as new courses that focus on national food protection. This program will support implementation of the 2011 FDA Food Modernization Act, which mandates consistent food protection training.
The CAFSP will train food safety officials who are responsible for inspecting 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. They monitor food safety at processing facilities, grocery stores and restaurants. They also are expected to act when communities experience disasters. Picture hurricanes, flooding, lengthy power failures and accidental or intentional disasters affecting the food supply. All can impact the safety of food available to consumers.
“We want to provide nationally consistent training that will improve inspectors’ preparedness to meet these challenges,” says CAFSP Director Dr. Sharon Thompson.
“We also want to help inspectors deal with the diversity of food imports, much of it ethnic in nature. These foods may be unfamiliar to the inspectors, including the health risks that contaminated foods may pose.” The CAFSP will also focus on training related to the safe transportation of food once it reaches U.S. borders. Safe food transportation practices can also prevent contamination and adulteration of food products.
In addition to providing training that will help inspectors expand their skills, the CAFSP will train them in cultural competencies so they are prepared to work with ethnically diverse food processors and vendors. Assisting in the effort will be two sub-contractors with experience serving multicultural populations: New Mexico State University and the University of Hawaii, both land-grant universities, as is UT.
“The exciting thing about this is preparing the nation to do consistent, quality inspections that make sure our food supply is safe,” Thompson says.
“I think it’s exciting that we’ll be on the ground floor building it.” –Margot Emery
Watch a Today Show segment on risks posed by improper refrigeration in trucks transporting food. The video is at http://on.today.com/foodinspection.