In order for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to be successfully implemented, training is key.
Employees in the food industry are ultimately responsible for getting the training they need to comply with FSMA rules, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a plan for facilitating this training, along with the help of public and private partners.
One size doesn’t fit all, so the FSMA Training Strategy has multiple facets for curricula development and actual training.
First, the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA), Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA), and Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) are developing model, standardized curricula to help domestic and foreign food businesses understand what they need to do to comply with preventive controls regulations and the produce safety rule.
These alliances, established since 2010 and primarily funded by FDA, are composed of representatives from the government and state regulatory agencies, the food industry and academia.
The programs, which will be available shortly after the FSMA rules have been finalized, will be intended for the majority of those affected by these rules.
But for other, more targeted groups, FDA is going to fund certain alternate programs through cooperative agreements.
“The agency’s goal is to work with groups that understand the special needs of and have direct access to businesses that face unique circumstances and challenges in implementing FSMA,” according to the strategy.
In particular, these cooperative agreements are planned to support local food producers and tribes.
Last in the strategy as it currently stands is a partnership between FDA and the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to fund a National Coordination Center and four Regional Centers to actually provide training to owners and operators of farms, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.
The competitive grant program was first announced in January 2015 and has now awarded $600,000 over three years to the International Food Protection Training Institute in Battle Creek, MI, to establish the National Coordination Center.
The Regional Centers will be established with separate grant money in the southern, western, north-central and northeast areas of the country. Consideration of those grants has already begun.
FDA intends for the standardized curricula developed by the alliances and the alternate curricula developed through cooperative agreements to be the only ones they officially recognize.
The agency encourages anyone developing other training courses to work with the alliances, the National Coordination Center and the Regional Centers “to ensure consistency and completeness of training.”
FDA also said it plans to provide more information about how such programs will be evaluated.