FDA Grants to Fund Food Safety Training

Grants to seven educational institutions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will fund food safety training programs to help improve responses to foodborne illness outbreaks and other events, according to officials at grant recipient institutions. The goal of the funding is to develop a National Food Safety Curriculum to ensure that federal, state, and local authorities can work together effectively in their responses to food emergencies, these officials said.

“FDA is looking to develop a national training program for food safety officials, and as part of that they want to develop consistent training so that people at the federal, state, and local levels will be on the same page when they go in to inspect a facility, knowing what they are looking for and what they are going to do as a result of that. The programs we develop with these grants will help provide that standardization,” said Sharon Thompson, DVM, MPH, director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Funding for each institution over the course of this five-year initiative will total about $6.5 million, according to the grantee institutions: the International Food Protection Training Institute; Iowa State University; the National Environmental Health Institute working with Underwriter laboratories; North Carolina State University; the University of Auburn; the University of California; and the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

“The FDA told us that their goal is to develop an educated, trained, and competent workforce to tackle the food safety issue,” said David Goldenberg, preparedness training coordinator at the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at UC Davis.

“The Food Safety Modernization Act has really brought this forward,” Goldenberg said. “The FDA has had internal training programs for its own people, but the act will require them to hire perhaps thousands more, and those people have to be trained. So, through these grants, they are bringing in additional resources from educational institutions that already excel at this kind of training.”

Goldenberg said UC Davis has expertise in training programs for developing food safety response teams, and he expects his institution’s role will be to develop training programs to establish these teams. Dr. Thompson said Tennessee’s expertise lies in food defense, food importation and transportation, and ethnic foods. She said she expects to work with two partner institutions, the University of Hawaii and New Mexico State University, on ethnic food issues and cultural competency.

The grant recipient institutions have yet to meet with the FDA or their fellow grantee institutions, according to Goldenberg and Dr. Thompson. A meeting with all grant recipients and FDA personnel was to take place this week, they said.

“We hope to find out more about how they see us working together,” Goldenberg said. “We’ll be working collaboratively, not only amongst ourselves but also with the agency. So at the meeting we will be looking to see if there are any gaps that can be filled in.”

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