Food Safety Networks
Because the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) will encompass various members of the food industry the FDA is working with a number of partners to promote training, education, and outreach. This includes establishing a partnership with USDA to further FSMA implementation. Below is a short overview of some of the partners and resources for implementation that FDA and USDA have developed:
The first step in education and training was the development of curriculums that explain the various rules under FSMA. The Produce Safety Alliance (PSA), Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA), and Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) have developed training programs to help food businesses understand the requirements of the preventive controls regulations (both human and animal) and the Produce Safety Rule. The Alliances are composed of representatives from the government, including FDA, USDA, and state regulatory agencies, the food industry, and academia.
Cornell University was charged with development of the curriculum to prepare produce growers to meet the Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training is currently the only FDA recognized curriculum that successfully prepares producers for compliance with the rule. The course provides a foundation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and co-management information, FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirements, and details on how to develop a farm food safety plan.
Additionally, in order to develop a network of trainers to deliver the PSA Grower Training the Produce Safety Alliance has developed a Train-the-Trainer (TTT) course. Anyone who completes the PSA TTT is certified to assist with teaching a Grower Training. But in order to host a Grower Training at least one trainer must have completed the PSA Lead Trainer certification process. This supplemental application and evaluation is intended to ensure PSA Lead Trainers meet the minimum qualifications in each of four competency areas as well as the educational and teaching background necessary to lead a PSA Grower Training.
The Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health was charged with development of the curriculums to prepare produce growers to meet the Preventive Controls for Human Food Rule and the Preventive Controls for Animal Food Rule. The FSPCA Preventive Controls for Human Food Training is currently the only FDA recognized curriculum that prepares one to be a “Preventive Controls Qualified Individual” (PCQI).
Because certain produce commodities are at greater risk for contamination, the FDA created separate rules for these products, including sprouts. The Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) was created in 2012 to enhance the industry's understanding and implementation of best practices for improving sprout safety. The SSA is developing a core curriculum and training and outreach programs for stakeholders in the sprout production community.
After establishing curriculums it was important to then expand the network of trainers, and where education was being performed. USDA has funded four regional centers for coordination with the Southern Center serving as the lead. They are designed to facilitate the coordination and implementation of training. The centers also develop supplemental and additional materials targeted to specific audiences.
- North Central Region Center for FSMA Training, Extension, and Technical Assistance
- Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety
- Southern Center for Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance to Enhance Produce Safety
- Western Regional Center to Enhance Food Safety
Other Programs and Resources
To better support farmers, regulators, and other stakeholders around the country the FDA has hired a team of regional experts located across the country known as the Produce Safety Network (PSN). These FDA employees will be able to consider regionally specific growing conditions and practices as they relate to Produce Safety Rule questions. PSN staff will provide on-site technical support to states as well as answer questions about the Produce Safety Rule and associated guidance. This regional approach will also enhance FDA development and implementation of policy, guidance, and training.
While FSMA is a national law with regulations developed by FDA, it will be enforced at the state level by most state departments of agriculture. There are some states where the department of health or another state agency will be doing enforcement. To help states enforce the Produce Safety Rule, the FDA provided funding to state agencies with actual or potential regulatory oversight and responsibility. This funding is known as the State Produce Implementation Cooperative Agreement Program or State CAP. Funding is provided for states to do a variety of activities including assessment, coordination, education, outreach, training, and technical assistance. Some states are developing farm inventories to know where farms are and have a list of who will need to be inspected. Currently, 43 states have State CAP funding and there are 7 states that have not received funding.
Similarly to local food producers, tribal producers also require specific training and technical assistance that can’t be met through other routes. In order to serve tribal producers the FDA awarded funding to the University of Arkansas through the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (IAFI). IAFI provides outreach, education, training, and technical assistance to tribal producers. They are cooperating with a wide array of partners, including the Intertribal Agricultural Council, to bring a series of webinars and face-to-face certification trainings to tribal producers and food businesses to fulfill requirements of FSMA.
Like the FDA, USDA is also providing grant funding for food safety training and education for small to mid-size producers and processors affected by FSMA. This funding is provided through the Food Safety Outreach Program (FSOP). As mentioned earlier, some of this funding has gone to regional coordination centers,. Starting in 2018-19 all regional coordination centers will fall under FSOP. In addition to regional center funding there are three other levels of funding that have existed: Pilot Projects, Community Outreach Projects, and Multi-State. Pilot Projects support the development and implementation of new and potentially high-risk, high impact food safety education and outreach programs in local communities. Community Outreach Projects support the growth and expansion of already existing food safety education and outreach programs. And Multi-State projects support multi-county, state-wide, or multi-state food safety education and outreach programs. Now that FSOP is taking over all regional coordination centers there are no longer multi-state projects being awarded.
- About FSMA
- FSMA Final Rule on Produce Safety
- FSMA Final Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food
- FSMA Technical Assistance Network (TAN): TAN is a central source of information for questions related to the FSMA rules, programs, and implementation strategies. You can look here for answers to frequently asked questions on FSMA, or submit your own question here.
- For technical questions regarding implementation of the requirements of the Produce Safety Rule, please contact the Food Safety Resource Team (FSRT) here.
USDA Harmonized GAP
USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, Specialty Crops Program, Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division Audit Programs offers voluntary independent audits of produce suppliers throughout the production and supply chain. The Produce GAP Harmonized Standard is the result of an effort by growers, shippers, produce buyers, government agencies -- including the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service -- audit organizations, and other stakeholders to develop a single audit that is applicable to all fresh produce commodities, all sizes of on-farm operations, and all regions in the United States, and that is acceptable to all buyers.