National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program

Foundational rules for the implementation of FSMA have been finalized by FDA. These rules include: Preventive Controls for Human and Animal Food; the Produce Safety rule; and the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) rule.

In order to help implement these new rules, FDA is facilitating multiple outreach efforts focusing on partnerships involving government (state, local, tribal, and territorial), industry, and academia. These partnerships will be key to developing and delivering training to help target audiences understand and comply with the new FSMA rules. Target audiences include, but are not limited to: owners and operators of small farms; small food processors; small fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers; local food production systems; and tribal operations.

FDA’s outreach efforts comprise the following key components:

1)      Creating public/private Alliances;

2)      Funding training programs through Cooperative Agreements; and

3)      Creating a National Coordination Center and Regional Centers, in collaboration with the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Public/Private Alliances

FDA has overseen the creation of three major Alliances – the Produce Safety Alliance, the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, and the Sprout Safety Alliance - comprising representatives from FDA, USDA, state regulatory agencies, industry, and academia. Shortly after being created (between 2010 and 2012), these Alliances conducted initial research into food safety training available prior to FSMA, and have since engaged a variety of stakeholders  to develop FDA-recognized FSMA training for both industry and regulatory professionals, and conduct pilot trainings throughout the country. Alliance stakeholders include, but are not limited to:

·         The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture;

·         The Association of Food and Drug Officials;

·         The Association of Public Health Laboratories;

·         The Association of American Feed Control Officials;

·         The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials;

·         The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN, which oversees international education, outreach, and training efforts);

·         Importers;

·         Foreign governments - in order to ensure that training opportunities available for international food businesses are consistent with those offered in the U.S.;

·         The farming community;

·         Non-profit and community-based organizations;

·         Trade Associations; and

·         Cooperative Extension.

The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA), which represents a partnership between FDA, USDA, and Cornell University, offers a Grower Training course for members of both the domestic and foreign produce industry, including small farmers. The course allows participants to develop a foundational understanding of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements, and developing a farm food safety plan. The PSA also offers a Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course, which prepares trainers to deliver the Grower Training course to produce growers. The TTT course covers the principles of adult learning, and helps potential trainers understand key concepts related to GAPs and the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.  The PSA maintains an extensive network of trainers qualified to deliver the Grower Training course throughout the produce industry, and also coordinates training efforts with a team of Regional Extension Associates in the Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast, and Midwest.

The Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) features a standardized training program, along with a technical information network, aimed at helping the food industry – including mixed-type facilities on farms – comply with the Preventive Controls rules for human and animal food. The FSPCA has developed a training curriculum – which includes courses and distance education modules – covering topics such as developing a food safety plan, conducting a hazard analysis, preventive controls for hazards, monitoring, verification, validation, corrective actions, and recordkeeping. Like the PSA, the FSPCA offers TTT courses for individuals who deliver training to both human food and animal food facilities. In addition, the FSPCA offers a training module on the FSVP rule for processors who import foods, along with an FSVP course for non-processor importers.

The Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) serves as a network hub – and primary resource – for the sprout industry. The SSA offers training on best practices related to the safe production of sprouts, and the relevant facets of the Produce Safety rule. Like the other Alliances, the SSA also offers a TTT course for individuals interested in delivering sprout safety training to farms. Both the FSPCA and SSA are coordinated by the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

A team of Lead Trainers, who have completed the TTT programs offered by the Alliances, is available to deliver multiple produce safety training sessions, and all food industry participants who complete the training(s) are awarded a certificate of completion.

Along with the traditional curriculum and training materials developed and offered by these three Alliances, FDA recognizes that the use of alternate materials may be more appropriate for certain groups. As a result, FDA is funding the development of training programs aimed at specific target audiences through a series of Cooperative Agreements.

Cooperative Agreements

A number of Cooperative Agreements have been awarded in order to develop and disseminate training for specific audiences – namely, local food producers and tribes – that may face unique circumstances and challenges in implementing the new FSMA rules.

The National Farmers Union (NFU), which represents small and mid-sized businesses involved in local food production – including sustainable and organic farming – has been awarded a one-year Cooperative Agreement under the Local Food Producer Outreach, Education, and Training to Enhance Food Safety and FSMA Compliance program. NFU will use the funding to develop and deliver training curricula, and conduct outreach activities aimed at its target audiences.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, which represents producers, manufacturers, and processors within tribes, has also been awarded a one-year Cooperative Agreement through the Native American Tribes Outreach, Education, and Training to Enhance Food Safety and FSMA Compliance program. The University will use the funding to develop and disseminate training curricula to tribal communities.

Both NFU and the University of Arkansas will be eligible for two additional years of funding, based on their performance and the availability of federal funding. In addition, FDA will facilitate collaboration among the Cooperative Agreement recipients and the Alliance, in order to maximize training materials that have already been developed by the PSA, FSPCA, and SSA.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), which represents state partners, has received a five-year Cooperative Agreement specifically aimed at helping to implement the Produce Safety Rule. NASDA and FDA will be developing best practices for implementing the rule, including education and outreach activities to both industry and regulatory officials. In addition, FDA has awarded Cooperative Agreement funding to help 42 states implement the Produce Safety Rule. This funding will allow these states to create and implement a produce safety system, and provide education, outreach, and assistance to farming operations covered by the rule.

National Coordination Center and Regional Centers

Through the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program – mandated by FSMA – FDA and NIFA have created a collaborative partnership focusing on providing produce safety training, education, and assistance to small farmers, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers. This program will be carried out through four Regional Centers (RCs) across the U.S., and a National Coordination Center (NCC) that will foster collaboration and efficiency among the four RCs.

FDA grants were issued in 2015 and 2016 to establish the following RCs:

·         The University of Vermont (Northeast);

·         The University of Florida (Southern);

·         Iowa State University (North Central); and

·         Oregon State University (Western).

Through collaboration with non-governmental and community-based organizations, cooperative extensions, food hubs, and local farm cooperatives, the RCs are developing and tailoring training curricula to meet the specific needs of the target audiences within their particular regions.

The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) has been designated as the NCC. In its role as the NCC, IFPTI is facilitating communication and collaboration among the RCs, the Alliances, and other stakeholders about the development and delivery of regional- or audience-specific produce safety training.

One of the NCC’s key activities is the management of the Training Advisory Council (TAC) for Produce Safety. The TAC, which meets annually face-to-face and through quarterly webinars, provides a forum to share information, provide input and reach stakeholders about training and technical assistance resources and strategies to address the needs of owners and operators of small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers affected by the FSMA rules. The TAC will advise the NCC, RCs, FDA, NIFA, and other key stakeholders on delivering existing training and developing and delivering new training to the audiences identified above.

FSMA Collaborative Training Forum

The informal FSMA Collaborative Training Forum had its initial meeting in early 2017. The Forum, which is co-chaired by FDA and USDA, provides an opportunity for dialogue and information-sharing among the participants, which include the Alliances, the National Coordination Center and Regional Centers, JIFSAN, NASDA, and all other Cooperative Agreement recipients. One of the key outcomes of the Forum will be eliminating duplicative efforts and maximizing the efficient use of resources.

Conclusion

Through a myriad of efforts, FDA is ensuring that all stakeholders – no matter their size, nature, or location - both understand the new FSMA requirements and have access to the tools and resources needed to implement the rules. The agency has created the infographic below which depicts the key players and their primary roles. Key organizations that oversee the development of FSMA training curricula and materials include the Alliances, the NCC and RCs, and recipients of the Local Foods and Tribal Cooperative Agreement (NFU and the University of Arkansas). Central to the delivery and dissemination of training are the Lead Trainers (through the Alliances, RCs, Cooperative Agreement recipients, and other key organizations such as NASDA and JIFSAN.

1.png