The International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL) will be run by the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), a new collaboration between the University of Maryland and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The IFSTL is expected to open next year.
Imports account for about 15 percent of the total US food supply, including 60 percent of fresh fruit and vegetables and 80 percent of seafood. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are about 189,000 registered foreign sites where food is made for sale in the United States, but the FDA only inspects a tiny fraction of them – just 153 in 2008.
Director of JIFSAN Jianghong Meng said: "Inspection at the border is not an option. We import so much food from other countries that the FDA can only inspect about one percent of it. The answer is to control contamination at the source."
The establishment of the International Food Safety Training Laboratory was announced at an expert working group meeting in Washington, DC, seeking to define best practices for food safety training in the Asia-Pacific region.
Boosting food safety confidence
Dr Robert Brackett, chief science officer at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, was one of several members of the trade organization represented in the expert working group.
Dr Brackett said: “Combined with food safety legislation that places prevention as the cornerstone of our food safety system, this work to address the critical food safety training needs in the APEC [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] region will help modernize our food safety system and bolster consumer confidence in the safety and security of the food supply globally.”
The IFSTL is intended to train scientists to detect both microbiological and chemical contaminants.
Chairman, president and CEO of the Waters Corporation Douglas Berthiaume said: "Waters Corporation is committed to bridging the gap between governments and industry to ensure the best science and most innovative technologies are used to make our food safe.”
President of the University of Maryland, Dr C. Dan Mote, said: “This collaboration is a superb example of how the public and private sectors can maximize their impact by combining their strengths. The new programs have excellent potential for improving food safety internationally."
The expert working group found that the four areas with the most critical food safety training needs in the APEC region were: risk assessment; laboratory capacity; incident management and supply chain management.
JIFSAN said that in addition to training foreign and US scientists in best food safety practices, it would also support the APEC forum’s goal to establish laboratory capacity building measures for the 22 member countries.