Serious foodborne illnesses that occurred in Colorado, California, Pacific Northwest, and other regions in the Western United States impacted various other regions in the nation, causing great concern to specialty crop growers, processors, and consumers. Poor sanitation practices and the need for better on-farm guidance were some of the critical issues needed to address these outbreaks. Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) was legislated to shift food safety approach from reactive to preventive. FSMA requires different on-farm responsibilities including new harvest and post-harvest handling practices and record keeping to minimize the risks of foodborne disease. The implementation of FSMA will have a major impact on agriculture, especially small and midsize farms throughout the U.S.
Recognizing the importance of and need for food safety training for small farm owners and food processors, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) joined with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) in a collaborative partnership to administer and manage the National Food Safety Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Program. This program establishes four Regional Centers (Southern, Western, Northeastern, and North Central) to provide training, education and technical assistance consistent with standards being established under FSMA. A National Coordination Center is located in Battle Creek, MI and was funded by the FDA to coordinate all the regional activities.
The Western Regional Food Safety Center covers thirteen states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming) and the U.S. Pacific island territories of Guam and American Samoa. They represent a diversity of crops, climatic zones, and geography covering vast agricultural lands from irrigated deserts to lush tropical farms to verdant river valleys. The Western Regional Food Safety Center States are responsible for 40% of all farms, 38% of land in farms, 33% of acres as harvested cropland on operation, and 67% of irrigated land on operation in the United States. The total market value of agricultural specialty crops, including maple syrup, sold was $67 billion, and the Western Regional Center States and Territories are responsible for more than 50% of that market value. Idaho and Washington produce over 70% of U.S. potatoes. Nearly half of the nation’s fruit, nuts, and vegetables come from California that alone represents 34% of the total U.S. market value of specialty crops. California (rank 1), Washington (rank 3), Oregon (rank 4), Idaho (rank 8) and Arizona (rank 11) are five of the top fourteen States in the U.S. that produce more than $1 billion in market value of specialty crops and these five States belong to the Western Regional Food Safety Center.
As a result, a significant limitation for the Western Regional Food Safety Center will be in achieving the necessary trainer levels to serve the needs of its partner States. It will be critical for the Western Regional Food Safety Center to work closely with the other three Regional Centers and the NCC to insure that this Region’s training needs are met.
Because of the diversity of the crops, the Western Regional Food Safety Center is divided into four sub-regions – the Northwest SubRegion (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), the Mountain SubRegion (Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming), the Southwest SubRegion (Arizona, California) and the Pacific SubRegion (Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam). The division allows training programs to add-on specialized needs of the different regions as well as undertake the basic training that is necessary for food safety, enabling growers and processors to be proactive and prevent or minimize microbial outbreaks with efficient management of food safety and harvesting practices. But collaboration among the Land-Grant universities in the western states is essential for uniform and effective training to take place in the vast agricultural sector.
Activities in the Western Region will be focused on developing trainers to deliver FDA-recognized curricula of the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) and Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance (FSPCA) training workshops. The workshops will be directed toward operators of small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetables merchant wholesalers who are affected by FSMA associated rules. In addition to Land-Grant universities, partnerships with stakeholder groups including state and local regulators, community-based and non-governmental organizations have been established, and will be leveraged to maximize training effectiveness and delivery opportunities. While the short-term goal is to establish an effective train-the-trainer program across the states in cooperation with the National Coordination Center and the other Regional Centers, the long-term goal is to improve food safety through training of a wide array of stakeholders across the western region of the U.S. These goals will be accomplished through the following specific objectives:
Objective 1. Develop a cadre of PSA (Produce Safety Alliance) and FSPCA (Food Safety Preventive Control Alliance) certified trainers within the US Western Region who are focused on supporting the food production and processing industry.
Objective 2. Develop and deliver region and stakeholder specific education, training curricula, and technical assistance programs.
Objective 3. Evaluate the impacts of education, training and technical assistance programs.
To learn more about the Western Regional Food Safety Center, please click here.
The Pacific SubRegion of the Western Regional Food Safety Center—Overview
To implement the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules through educational activities, several regional food safety training centers were and continue to be established in the United States. Assisted by a $1.2 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a multi-institutional Western Regional Food Safety Center was created to help small and mid-sized farms and food processors prevent foodborne illnesses. As earlier described, the thirteen western institution members consist of food safety personnel from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, California, Arizona, and Hawaii. The University of Hawaii (UH) further identified a subregion, the Pacific SubRegion, that consists initially of Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam, and will be expanded to the other Pacific islands with time.
The Pacific SubRegion of the Western Regional Food Safety Center—Hawaii
Since FSMA implementation is an involved project, UH divided the tasks between the Preventive Controls for Human Food and Produce Safety. Units recognized by the US FDA developed standardized teaching curricula that will certify Lead Instructors who may register and deliver their training sessions. The Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) developed the only teaching curriculum recognized by the FDA for Preventive Controls and the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA) for Produce Safety.
Training courses are currently underway in Hawaii to build capacity of trainers in the Pacific SubRegion. These training courses will also be offered in American Samoa and Guam as additional trainers are developed.
- FSMA — What You Need To Know. This is an informational session to introduce what FSMA entails. It is available online at no charge.
- The Principles of Food Hygiene and Food Safety. Successful completion of all course requirements meets the training requirements of FSMA for Qualified Individuals who are food handlers in food facilities required to register with the FDA.
- Preventive Controls for Human Food (formally known as Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Human Food). Successful completion of all course requirements meets the training requirements of FSMA for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals who may develop and implement a food safety plan.
- PSA Grower Training Course. Successful completion of all requirements of this 1-day course meets the Worker Training Standards. To be offered in fall 2016.
- PSA Train-the-Trainer Course. Successful completion of all requirements of this 2-day course meets the training requirements for a PSA Trainer. To be offered in fall 2016. To be a PSA Lead Trainer, a PSA Trainer must meet the qualifications and pass an interview by a panel of experts to demonstrate knowledge in the competency areas covered in the TTT course.
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