Alliance established to help companies comply with food safety rules
Jan. 18, 2012
by Jay Sjerven
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in cooperation with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (I.I.T.) Institute for Food Safety and Health (I.F.S.H.) in December 2011 created the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (F.S.P.C.A.) to develop training courses and materials on preventing contamination of human and animal food during production. The materials to be developed by the alliance will help industry, particularly small and medium-size companies, comply with the new preventive control rules that will be required under the F.D.A. Food Safety Modernization Act (F.S.M.A.).
The F.D.A. is expected to issue proposed rules in early 2012 that will require facilities that make or handle food for people or animals to put measures in place to help prevent foodborne illness. Facilities must develop food safety plans that evaluate food safety hazards and identify the preventive measures required to guard against those hazards. The plans also must describe how manufacturers will monitor their preventive measures to ensure they are working. Records of the monitoring must be kept, and facilities also must develop a plan of action to correct problems.
The F.S.P.C.A. initiatives will provide food facilities with the science-based information required for compliance with the pending regulations, said Robert E. Brackett, vice-president of the I.I.T. and director of the I.F.S.H.
“I.I.T.’s I.F.S.H. is particularly well-placed to coordinate the activities of this vital alliance,” Dr. Brackett said. “With key provisions related to the preventive controls component of the F.S.M.A. coming to the fore next year, the time is now for all stakeholders to work together to ensure that all food companies, no matter their size, have access to the education and training that will be needed to ensure compliance.”
The goal of the alliance, Dr. Brackett added, is to serve even the smallest companies wherever they are based.
The F.S.P.C.A. was established under a one-year, $1-million partnership grant funded by the F.D.A. Office of Foods through the I.F.S.H.-F.D.A. collaborative agreement. Funding has been allocated for the development of a standardized industry-oriented training curriculum, including hands-on and web-based training modules. The curriculum will be available to those who will provide training to the industry. I.I.T. I.F.S.H. also will establish a distance learning training portal at its Bedford Park, Ill.-based campus.
Dr. Brackett said the F.S.P.C.A. will provide and disseminate the technical and scientific bases for identifying hazards associated with specific food commodities and industry sec-tors per the F.S.M.A. regulations. The group also will develop preventive control models for major industry sectors and provide guidance for maintaining preventive controls.
“In addition to I.I.T. I.F.S.H. and F.D.A. officials, the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance steering committee will include representatives from stakeholder groups in academia, human and animal food industry trade and scientific associations, and government,” said Purnendu C. Vasavada, the F.S.P.C.A. coordinator.
Dr. Vasavada said members of the steering committee recently were named, and technical working groups soon will be formed. Glenn Black, director of science operations and food protection for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Washington, will chair the F.S.P.C.A.
Dr. Vasavada also pointed to the group’s progress in a number of areas, including formalizing an agreement on alliance management and organizational structure, creating a work plan and timeline for technical working group assignments, and drafting a list of proposed mechanisms for development of the training curriculum.
The food safety alliance was modeled on previous alliances for seafood and fresh produce developed by the F.D.A. and groups representing academia, industry, and government. The Seafood HACCP Alliance was created in 1994, and the Produce Safety Alliance was established in 2010.