A $1.3 million grant to develop a new food safety training program for government and industry has been awarded by the Food and Drug Administration to seven recipients, five of which have an associated veterinary school or college.
The grant, announced Oct. 5, funds the first year of a five-year agreement and is renewable for a total of $6.5 million. It is focused on preventing food-borne illnesses, which each year sicken 48 million people in the United States and cause 3,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant is part of an FDA competitive grants program that aims to build an integrated national food safety system, as mandated by the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (see JAVMA, Feb. 15, 2011, page 409).
According to the law, signed by President Barack Obama in January, Congress has provided the FDA with new regulatory authority to inspect farms. The FDA is also expected to hire thousands of new employees to fulfill this authority. These new hires will need to be trained; however, no coordinated training is currently offered by the federal, state, local, and tribal agencies that are tasked with ensuring food safety.
The following entities anticipate developing training programs to assist the FDA as the new regulations are written: Auburn University, the University of California-Davis, the International Food Protection Training Institute, Iowa State University, the National Environmental Health Association, North Carolina State University, and the University of Tennessee.
Together, they will help the FDA craft a national food safety curriculum that can be used to train agency and food industry personnel on standards for inspections, investigations, and laboratory testing as well as training and certification requirements, auditing criteria, and metrics for evaluating program performance. The training will involve not only manufactured foods, which have been a mainstay of FDA work, but also on-farm inspections. In addition, the project will create and improve course content to meet or exceed a national accreditation standard, with a focus on specialty produce crops, dairy, and laboratory operations.
The request is far-reaching, and the FDA has acknowledged that no one single entity could be expected to fulfill all the grants' parameters, said David Goldenberg, preparedness training coordinator at UC-Davis' Western Institute for Food Safety & Security, which will take part in the project.
Together, (seven entities) will help the FDA craft a national food safety curriculum that can be used to train agency and food industry personnel on standards for inspections, investigations, and laboratory testing as well as training and certification requirements, auditing criteria, and metrics for evaluating program performance.
The institute was established in 2002 to draw together leading food safety scientists from academia and state government to study food safety and security issues and provide food safety education programs for consumers and food-related industries.
Goldenberg said he anticipates that the entities will develop various levels of training, from entry level to journeyman to technical to leadership. The training will be standardized according to American National Standards Institute/International Association for Continuing Education and Training standards for continuing education. It will encompass various modes, including classroom instruction, video, and tabletop exercises. Distance learning via the Internet will also be evaluated as a possibility. The material will be delivered across the United States and could eventually be given internationally in countries that export food into the United States, he added.
An initial meeting was held the last week of October in Washington, D.C., for the seven awardees.