The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a $17.5m investment in food and feed safety standards encompassing federal, state, and local partners.
Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said: "These cooperative agreements support and enhance local food safety efforts. The grants are another step in the FDA's continuing efforts to build an integrated food safety system between federal, state, and local partners."
Comprising 83 grants, the money will be invested in four major areas: Response, intervention, innovation and prevention.
In the area of response, the grants will be used to set up the Food Protection Rapid Response Team (RRT). It will also include Program Infrastructure Improvement Prototype Project cooperative agreements designed to develop, implement, exercise, and integrate the response to all food hazards and foodborne illness.
Three new states will receive funding, Virginia, Texas, and Washington, in addition to the six other already included in the programme.
Intervention grants will cover Food Safety and Security Monitoring (FERN). FERN laboratories provide additional capacity for analyzing food samples in the event of food-borne disease outbreaks or other large-scale food emergency events.
The grants will be specifically directed towards microbiological, chemical, or radiological analysis.
The innovation part of the new investment will be dedicated to Innovative Food Defense.
These grants will be awarded to generate products that complement, develop, or improve State and local food defence programmes.
The prevention part of the grants covers the Food Protection Task Force Conference programme. This focuses on meetings that foster communication, cooperation, and collaboration among state, local, and tribal food protection, public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies.
The meetings will provide a forum for all the stakeholders of the food protection system; including regulatory agencies, academia, industry, consumers, state legislators, boards of health and agriculture, and other interested parties.
Meanwhile, the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) welcomed the investment in training food safety inspectors.
Stephen Benoit, president of the National Center for Food Protection and founding member of IFPTI said: "The global interdependence of the food supply gives rise to unprecedented challenges for food protection professionals.
“One has to look no further than recent outbreaks involving Salmonella, E. coli, and melamine to grasp the significant health and economic impacts of a contaminated food supply."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year food pathogens cause an estimated 76m illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the US. About one of every four Americans will develop a food-borne illness each year, it added.