Beam by beam, the federal government is building the superstructure of a new food safety system in the United States. Using 2011’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) as the foundation, the USDA and FDA set the footings for two weight-bearing pillars of the new system recently with grant awards for regional training centers. Iowa-State-and-Vermont-U-mascotsjpg Iowa State University and the University of Vermont received the grants, respectively, for the North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance and the Northeast Center for Food Safety, Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance. “This is going to be a feat for large companies to comply with the new rule, but they’ll have the money and the personnel to help them get there,” said Angela Shaw, an assistant professor of food science at Iowa State who will lead the regional center there. “The smaller firms will have a harder time getting fully compliant because they don’t have access to the same kind of resources.” In October 2015, grants for two other regional centers and a National Coordination Center went to the University of Florida-Gainesville, Oregon State University and the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) of Battle Creek, MI. The grant program is a joint project by the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). It addresses a key component of FSMA — the development and implementation of a comprehensive food safety training, education and technical assistance program for those affected by the Act. The regional training centers are specifically charged with helping:

  • small and medium sized farms;
  • beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers;
  • small processors; and
  • small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

“The intention of this program is to begin building an infrastructure that will support a national food safety training, education, extension, outreach, and technical assistance system and provide significant opportunities for funding through subcontracts and for partnerships with eligible stakeholder groups, including community-based and non-governmental organizations,” according to the NIFA. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)