“Since food produced by other countries in America is consumed worldwide, it is critical that food quality and safety systems there have high-quality auditing programs,” Dr. Bianchini emphasizes.
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“Having all specialists meet in one place here at UNL provided an opportunity to understand the differences between countries and share knowledge,” Dr. Stratton adds. “In that way, those least experienced benefited from contributions made by specialists who are more familiar with the topic. We may offer the program at UNL again in the future, but now we are concentrating efforts on finishing the curriculum for the online school for auditors.”
UNL is preparing all the curriculum for the ERVIA School for Auditors (under development), including online videos, lectures, activities, and reading materials, Drs. Bianchini and Stratton point out.
According to Drs. Bianchini and Stratton, the 2016 UNL workshop in food safety auditing and the School for Auditors were/are both based on ISO 19011. The School for Auditors is to be a continuing education program, rather than a certification program under the virtual food inspection school initiative.
Virtual Food Inspection School
Implemented by IICA in 2013, ERVIA was financed by the Geneva, Switzerland-based Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) to strengthen capacities in food inspection, improve safety, contribute to the protection of public health, and facilitate trade.
The STDF is a global partnership that supports developing countries in building their capacity to implement international sanitary and phytosanitary standards, guidelines, and recommendations as a means to improve their human, animal, and plant health status and ability to gain or maintain access to markets.
Collaborators forming an Academic Council for ERVIA and serving as proctors for the program include the University of Belize, Costa Rica’s National Food Science and Technology Center, the University of Costa Rica, José Matías Delgado University in El Salvador, Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua León, Honduras National Agricultural University, the University of Panama, and ISA University in the Dominican Republic.
“The ultimate goal of ERVIA is to provide training for all inspectors in the eight countries, in the area of food safety inspection and food safety auditing,” says Ana Marisa Cordero Peña, a specialist with IICA’s Programa de Sanidad Agropecuaria e Inocuidad de Alimentos (Agricultural Health and Food Safety Program). “The school will also be open to persons from the private sector who are interested in obtaining the diploma, either on their own or with financing from their employers.”
The Academic Council, which includes one academic institution from each participating country, is one of the key factors for the success of the project, Cordero Peña emphasizes. “The Council has been responsible for providing technical support for the virtual course by administering tests and also issuing diplomas from the school in each country,” she mentions.
The general objective of ERVIA, Cordero Peña says, is to improve the safety of fresh or processed foods originating in the region and thus to facilitate trade and improve public health through harmonized modern inspection procedures and food auditing techniques carried out by a team of properly trained food inspectors in every country of the region.
“Within ERVIA’s Virtual Inspection School, two installments of virtual Food Inspection Training have been delivered, with about 400 inspectors from Central America and the Dominican Republic trained,” she relates. “Food auditing training in English and Spanish will be available in the IICA virtual platform at the beginning of 2017, which is the training being developed by the UNL group. In light of the IICA project being completed in June 2016, a sustainability strategy was developed with support of the universities, Central American governments, and IICA to continue working on these issues.”