Unique Program to Boost Food Safety Opens; Aimed at Foreign Lab Workers
U.S. Regulators-UMD, Waters Corp. Stress Latest Tech., U.S. Requirements
September 15, 2011
COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new training facility has opened near the nation’s capital taking a unique approach to global food safety. The new public-private initiative is aimed at foreign lab technicians who test foods, and uses federal regulators as teachers. The new facility gives these foreign workers intensive, hands-on lab training in the latest technology, plus instruction in U.S. government food safety methods, standards, and acceptable alternatives.
“The more we can strengthen scientific expertise in foreign food labs and harmonize their procedures with U.S. requirements, the greater the likelihood of safe foods reaching the U.S. and global markets,” says the University of Maryland’s Janie Dubois, who directs the new International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL). “Federal regulators can only inspect a tiny fraction of imports, so foods should be well-tested and comply with U.S. requirements when they arrive in the country.”
Based at the University of Maryland’s Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) – a collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the new lab marries federal and university expertise with the support of the Waters Corporation, a leading manufacturer of high-tech laboratory testing equipment. In keeping with the new U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act’s emphasis on prevention, the initiative aims to improve the safety of food imports before they reach the U.S. border.
ITSTL was officially dedicated Sept. 15. It is the first permanent facility of its kind in the world. The lab’s first complete training began Sept. 12 with a class of technicians and laboratory supervisors from China and Indonesia. These classes focus on detecting pesticide contamination.
The foreign technicians get instruction in U.S-recommended microbiological and chemical analysis methods directly from regulators at the FDA, Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as academics from the University of Maryland. Also, the training gives students a chance to discuss acceptable, alternate analytical methods that regulators call "fit-for-purpose."
“We’re giving students unparalleled insight into the way federal regulators operate, and how best to apply their techniques to conditions back home,” Dubois says.
Nearly two-thirds of fresh fruits and produce sold in the U.S. are imports, as is a significant proportion of seafood. The demand for testing expertise – especially the hands-on variety – far outstrips current technical capacity in many countries.
Maryland’s JIFSAN operates the facility and directs the curriculum. The Waters Corporation helped build and equip the lab and assisted in design of the program. The company is a major manufacturer of laboratory equipment used to detect and measure the presence of chemical contaminants in food.
"This uncommon collaboration promises a powerful response to a serious and growing international concern,” says University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “Joining academic, private sector and government expertise makes a lot of sense, and is a uniquely effective way to build international scientific capacity and food safety.”
Approximately 200 professionals per year are expected to train in the self-supporting program. The IFSTL laboratories are built to handle 20 students per session, and have been equipped by Waters with state-of-the-art ultraperformance liquid chromatography, with photodiode array, fluorescence and mass spectrometry detection.
“Waters is committed to improving the availability, quality and consistency of food safety testing capacity,” says the corporation’s Executive Vice President Art Caputo. “We learned from our customers that there is a real need for help and support in understanding the diverse food safety technologies and standards that exist around the globe. Serving as a bridge between governments and industry, Waters approached the FDA and the university with the solution: a powerful public-private partnership that leverages the best expertise and resources to help build trust, collaboration and ensure the safety of our food.”
IFSTL says a number of developing countries have expressed interest in the training because it can benefit the safety of foods for both their domestic and global markets.
“As the world’s only laboratory dedicated to training government and manufacturing scientists on regulations and best practices for food safety testing methods, this important public/private partnership will help ensure the safety of our food supply and lead the world in implementing the best practices available to protect the health of its citizens,” said Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-05). “I want to congratulate the Waters Corporation, JIFSAN, and the University of Maryland on the official opening of the International Food Safety Training Laboratory.”
Located in the University of Maryland’s M-Square research park near Washington, D.C., right next-door to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, IFSTL is uniquely positioned to offer high-level, multi-lingual instruction from U.S. scientists.
"The FDA looks forward to this opportunity to build global laboratory capacity,” says Michael Landa, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The International Food Safety Training laboratory will help to address food safety challenges world-wide through training and technical assistance."
More information on IFSTL:
IFSTL Laboratory Manager
University of Maryland Communications
Manager, Corporate Communications
Founded in 1996 by the University of Maryland and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, JIFSAN is a multidisciplinary research, education and outreach program. Its mission is to advance sound strategies that improve public health, food safety, applied nutrition and animal health using risk analysis principles. It has developed strong partnerships with government agencies, industry, academia and public interest groups. It conducts extensive training, and has reached more than 2,500 food safety professionals from 27 countries.
ABOUT WATERS CORPORATION
Waters Corporation creates business advantages for laboratory-dependent organizations by delivering practical and sustainable innovation to enable significant advancements in such areas as healthcare delivery, environmental management, food safety, and water quality worldwide.
Pioneering a connected portfolio of separations science, laboratory information management, mass spectrometry and thermal analysis, Waters' technology breakthroughs and laboratory solutions provide an enduring platform for customer success.