A national assessment was launched this past week aimed at identifying the knowledge and training needs of retail food regulators. The assessment, developed by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) as part of the NEHA-FDA Retail Flexible Funding Model (RFFM) Grant Program, is being promoted widely, using the findings to bolster educational resources, reduce knowledge gaps, and improve workforce capabilities to ensure safe retail food for the public.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to estimates that every year approximately 1 in 6 people living in the U.S. — 48 million people — get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illness.

Local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal environmental public health and agricultural departments, agencies, and organizations make up the retail food regulatory community and are responsible for preventing and responding to foodborne illness.

“This assessment is essentially a national census of the retail food regulatory community. It is significant for both what it includes and who it surveys,” said Rance Baker, director of the Entrepreneurial Zone department at the Denver-based NEHA. “With so many competing interests pursuing the same financial resources, it is important that we determine where the training dollars are needed most. This survey will look at the intersection between curricula and needs in the retail food regulatory community to identify the gaps in the integrated food safety system.”

A comprehensive training infrastructure for retail food safety regulatory professionals is an essential component in preventing foodborne illness. The information provided in this national survey will inform decisions about food safety training and resources for years to come.

All individuals working in retail regulatory food safety are encouraged to complete the survey. It will remain open until this fall.

“Who should complete the census? Everyone in the regulatory realm of the U.S. retail food safety system,” said Baker.

For more information about the assessment, retail food safety, or the NEHA-FDA RFFM Grant Program, visit www.neha.org/retailgrants.

NEHA represents more than 6,600 governmental, private, academic, and uniformed environmental health professionals in the U.S., its territories, and internationally. NEHA is the profession’s strongest advocate for excellence in the practice of environmental health as it delivers on its mission to build, sustain, and empower an effective environmental health workforce.

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