Kansas State University will join with Iowa State University as it becomes a regional center for food safety in an effort to help businesses that grow and process food comply with new federal regulations in the coming years.
K-State Research and Extension food safety specialist Londa Nwadike will be a co-investigator with the center.
The federal Food and Drug Administration awarded Iowa State a three-year, $950,000 grant to establish the new North Central Regional Center for Food Safety Training, which will provide guidance to food processors and growers in 12 Midwestern states. Angela Shaw, Catherine Strohbehn, Linda Naeve and Joseph Hannan are extension specialists at Iowa State University and will lead the start-up effort. K-State Research and Extension will work with the ISU team to ensure that fruit and vegetable growers and processors in Kansas will reap the benefits of the new center.
Food safety has grown as a topic of concern for the American public, and the food safety regulations needed to be modernized, Shaw said.
“We’re able to document more foodborne outbreaks now as detection and health care technology have improved,” she said. “And social media and news media have helped food safety grow in stature as an important issue to people. Food safety rules should reflect those changes.”
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, aims to strengthen the U.S. food safety system by preventing foodborne outbreaks before they occur. The produce safety rule, one of seven major rules under FSMA, requires fruit and vegetable growers to meet science-based minimum standards for safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. FSMA also establishes a national center and four regional centers – which includes the new center at Iowa State – to help guide companies that will have to comply with the law.
“This regional center will help provide information to affected food producers and processors in Kansas, particularly smaller businesses, to help them be compliant with the new regulations,” said K-State’s Nwadike.
The size of a firm determines the date on which it will need to comply with one of the law’s major rules, she said. The largest companies will have to make a deadline in September, while the smallest firms have about four years. She said large companies will be able to devote the necessary resources to make the transition, but small companies likely will need the most help in updating under the new rule.
Companies will have to update their record keeping and training policies regarding food safety, Shaw said.
To help companies make those changes, Shaw said, the first step for the regional center will be to reach out to the firms that will have to comply with the new rules for a needs assessment.
Nwadike said that K-State’s participation in the new center fits well with Kansas State’s land-grant mission.
“This undertaking will be very research based,” Shaw said. “We’ll have a very robust outreach effort to work with the companies, and we’ll also be working with the other regional centers to see what sort of overlap exists.”