FDA has announced two grant awards, each for $950,000, under a joint project with USDA to establish two more regional centers for food safety training, outreach, and technical assistance related to implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) by smaller food operations. These latest centers will be established at the University of Vermont and Iowa State University.

FDA is increasing its efforts in FSMA implementation and in supporting subject food facilities' implementation of FSMA provisions. Among its most recent efforts are regional centers offering comprehensive food safety trainings to increase industry understanding of food safety standards.

Under FSMA, subject food facilities face requirements to implement preventative controls and comply with increased regulatory requirements generally. The earliest compliance deadlines for larger companies are coming up soon - in September 2016. Smaller companies have up to four more years to comply.  

FDA recently noted, "While members of the food industry are ultimately responsible for getting the training they need to comply with the FSMA rules, the FDA recognizes the importance of its role in facilitating that training."   The  regional centers are part of this role, aiming to serve as local outreach and training resources for smaller businesses that may not have the resources to easily come into compliance with FSMA. The centers' target audience: small and medium sized farms, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

The centers are also part of  the broader FSMA superstructure, helping generally to support food safety training, education, and technical assistance.

According to FDA, "the goal of FSMA training programs will be the outcome – advancing knowledge among food producers to meet FSMA requirements." 

MORE ABOUT THE REGONAL TRAINING CENTERS

In 2015, FDA and USDA recognized the need for food safety training for smaller food companies and announced the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance Grant Program, aiming to provide funding to smaller companies so they can receive training, education, and technical assistance consistent with FSMA standards.

FDA intends to provide such assistance through the work of the regional training centers.

The regional centers are tasked with understanding and communicating training opportunities available to targeted businesses in their region, as well as tailoring curricula to meet specific regional needs. The grants are to be carried out in a manner that facilitate the integration of food safety standards and guidance with a variety of agricultural production and processing systems, including conventional, sustainable, organic, and conservation and environmental practices. The regional centers will work with representatives from non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as representatives from cooperative extension services, food hubs, local farm cooperatives.

In October 2015, FDA announced that the National Coordinating Center would be established by the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) of Battle Creek, Michigan. IFPTI itself was founded in 2009 – learn more about it here. In addition, the first two regional center grants were given to the University of Florida, to establish the Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety, and to Oregon State University to establish the Western Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Food Safety.

Iowa State will establish the North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance to provide guidance across 12 Midwestern states, and the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College has received the grant to establish The Northeast Center for Food Safety, Training, Education, Extension, Outreach and Technical Assistance to provide guidance to 12 northeastern states and Washington DC.

The founding of the centers in Iowa and Vermont completes the four regional center grants,  with all four regional centers and the National Coordinating Center now in place.