The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the 1,500-member trade association for retailers and wholesalers of food and consumer products, has announced the creation of a Center of Excellence for Food Safety and Protection.  

FMI says the intent of the center is to bring together food safety experts and professionals from government relations, asset protection, food defense, supply chain management, health and wellness, sustainability and industry relations to address food safety.

The center will be used to develop prevention programs and enhanced public/private partnerships.  FMI also plans to establish strengthened collaborations between those in the industry, form better crisis management tools and create stronger response and recovery plans.  

Additional resources related to food and agriculture infrastructure, such as intentional adverse events, animal welfare issues, and emergency preparation and response plans will also be available.

“The Center will serve as a resource to consolidate our knowledge of food safety and strengthen our commitment to ensuring that the food we sell is as safe as possible,” said FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin in a news release.

FMI’s board of directors created the center in hopes of establishing a central clearing-house for food safety and protection information, initiatives and programs.  Though much of the center’s research and resources will be available for the food and consumer products industry as well as consumers, some information will be for FMI members only.

FMI plans to have a website for the center up and running for consumers and industry members sometime in the first quarter of 2011.  The center will be based at FMI’s offices in Arlington, VA.  

Dr. Jill Hollingsworth, DVM, formerly FMI’s group vice president of food safety programs, will lead the center.  Hollingsworth worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 15 years where she was responsible fore a wide variety of scientific endeavors, including outbreak investigations, recalls and public health policy.  She has also served as captain in the U.S. Air Force Reserves as part of the Biomedical Service Corps, specializing in biological warfare and food defense.