UT’s New Initiative to Improve Safety of Nation’s Food Supply
The University of Tennessee Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness (CAFSP) will build upon well-established national training development and delivery mechanisms to address the high priority needs of the National Integrated Food Safety System. The CAFSP and its partners will develop and deliver high quality training to food safety officials at the local, state and national levels.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is projected to fund the initiative at $6.6 million across five years. 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 program will build on previously developed curriculum and will develop new courses that will focus on high priority areas related to national food protection. This program will support implementation of the 2011 FDA Food Safety 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 natural 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 the 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 in serving multicultural populations: New Mexico State University and the University of Hawaii, both land-grant universities.
“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.”
The CAFSP is located at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. It combines the expertise of University of Tennessee faculty with other institutions across the country to develop and deliver high quality training programs related to protection of the agriculture and food sectors, and conduct research and provide technical assistance related to food safety, food defense, animal emergency response, , foreign animal diseases, and more.
One of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine educates students in the art and science of veterinary medicine and related biomedical sciences, promotes scientific research and enhances human and animal well-being.
In addition to the programs of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT AgResearch system of 10 research and education centers and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.