As part of FDA’s FSMA training vision, the agency has announced two funding opportunities aimed at providing outreach, education and training on the FSMA preventive controls rules.
The Native American Tribes Outreach, Education and Training cooperative agreement will provide up to $750,000 annually for three years. “FDA anticipates that federally recognized tribes will need food safety education and training that addresses the regulatory requirements of the applicable FSMA rules and also encompasses specific cultural practices associated with produce farming and food manufacturing/processing within tribes relevant to their status as sovereign nations,” according to an FDA release.
The Local Food Producer Outreach, Education, and Training agreement will award local food producers $1.5 million this fiscal year with the potential for two more years if federal funds are available. It aims to assist small and mid-size producers/processors with particular practices related to their scale of production and management practices. The agreement will focus on those involved in local food systems while considering “account diversified, sustainable, organic and identity-preserved agricultural production and processing.”
With the upcoming regulations right around the corner, the good news is that FDA is still on track to meet the FSMA deadlines for August (preventive controls for human and animal food). But as industry looks to the future of FSMA and its implementation, resources and funding will be a challenge. Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at FDA, continued this message (which he declared several months ago) at the 2015 IAFP conference in Portland, OR.
“We’ve been given a brand new mandate by Congress to do things we haven’t done before,” said Taylor, as he emphasized that FDA will be in a do-more-with-less resource-challenged state. FDA would need, over the five years following the enactment of FSMA, $580 million, said Taylor. Over the first five years, FDA has received about $162 million (through 2015). “2016 is the absolute crunch year for FSMA funding,” he said. President Obama’s budget request for FY2016 would provide $109.5 million.
The issue is that there simply isn’t enough funding to get it all done, or as Taylor put it, not enough money to “maintain momentum towards comprehensive implementation of the FSMA vision.” As a result of the funding limitations, Taylor said that FDA will be making “hard choices” and will be forced to prioritize the funding that it receives. He indicated that the agency will focus on preventive controls implementation first. But this leaves a potential for disruption due to the investments needed for implementing the produce safety rule and building a strong system for imports, which may pose the biggest challenge over the next decade, Taylor warned. While trying to remain positive, the deputy commissioner also maintained that he wanted to be transparent about the situation.
FSMA will give FDA the ability and technology to act in real-time when issues occur, but it will also require new skills and training, as well as a shift in culture. In November, Taylor will be the opening plenary speaker for the Food Safety Consortium Conference and will surely have more insights, as industry will be entering the implementation phase.
President Obama’s FY 2016 budget request would provide an additional $109 million for FSMA implementation. In the current fiscal year, FDA received an additional $27.5 million. And at this juncture as Congress considers the funding that will help transform all the plans and preparations for FSMA into protections that will greatly reduce the number of illnesses caused by contaminated foods and greatly increase consumer confidence in the safety of our food supply, this additional investment would be critical for the success of FSMA and its implementation, writes Michael R. Taylor is FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine.
In an FDA Voice blog, Taylor describes that work must be done right now to ensure that the FSMA rules are implemented smoothly and effectively in late 2016 and 2017, and lists the areas in need of additional funding that, through FSMA, will transform the food safety system into one that prevents hazards instead of just responding to them.
- Approach to food safety inspections and compliance will be fundamentally different. FDA will deploy inspectors who are specialized in specific food commodities, rather than covering a broad range of FDA-regulated products. Backed by technical experts, they will assess the soundness and performance of a facility’s overall food safety system. Achieving this will require a major reorientation and retraining of more than 2,000 FDA inspectors, compliance officers and other staff involved in food safety activities.
- For vast majority of food producers want to comply and keep their products safe. FDA will be issuing guidance documents that will be essential to helping industry meet FSMA requirements. Funds are needed now for FDA to recruit additional experts who can ensure that guidance development is based on the best science and knowledge of industry practices.
- Education and technical assistance to help farmers, processors and importers—especially small businesses—implement the new standards. FDA would use a large portion of these resources to provide financial support to state agencies and public-private-academic collaborative entities, such as the Produce Safety Alliance and the Preventive Controls Alliance. FDA has also joined with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) in providing grants that will fund food safety training for small, sustainable and organic farm owners and food processors.
- State partnerships. There are more than 3,000 state, local and tribal government agencies involved in food safety. To align state programs with FDA’s new facility inspection and compliance approach, the agency will provide states with funds for inspector training, information sharing capacity with FDA and other states, state laboratory coordination, and inspector certification programs, and these preparations must be accelerated in 2016.
- Modernize how we ensure the safety of imported foods. The Foreign Supplier Verification Program will require a substantial regulatory development process, increased staffing and the training of more than 400 investigative and compliance personnel within FDA to enforce the regulation. It will also require extensive training and technical assistance for importers.
Those are just the highlights; there’s much more to be done. The bottom line is that without investment now, and sustained funding afterwards, there is the risk that the implementation of FSMA will be uneven or even delayed. This would be bad for everyone, including those who must meet the new standards and those who must enforce them. Most importantly, it would be bad for consumers, who want to be sure that the foods they are eating and serving their families are safe.
Click here for the full blog.