Iowa State Awarded Grant to Continue Hosting Regional Center for Produce Safety

Research News

Continued funding will develop resources for produce growers and processors

Iowa State University has received a third round of funding to continue hosting the North Central Region (NRC) Center for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Training, Extension, and Technical Assistance. The approximately $800,000 in continued funding will support the national food safety program by coordinating information within the NCR through communication, collaboration, education, training, technical assistance and development of new food safety materials.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, 48 million people become sick, 128,000 persons are hospitalized, and 3,000 persons die each year, in the U.S., as a result of food-borne diseases. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that these outcomes are a “significant public health burden that [are] largely preventable.” Through the Regional Center for Produce and Safety, Iowa State researchers and extension specialists will contribute to addressing this public health issue by aiding fruit and vegetable growers and processors to comply with the FSMA across the 12-state region.

“This center will continue to work as a regional unit to reduce the incidences of foodborne illness and laying the groundwork for a safer food supply,” said Associate Professor and Extension Specialist of Food Microbiology/Safety Angela Shaw.

The Center proposes that targeted food safety education, professional development opportunities and access to technical assistance will provide the crucial tools for diversified and underserved growers and processors to facilitate compliance with food safety regulations. With the continued funding support through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Center will achieve its goals through four objectives:

  • Expanding the produce safety network within the NCR to include underserved produce industry partners, more and more diverse producer, processors, and educators; Collaborating with and support the NCR produce safety network
  • Creating, modifying and validating produce safety training materials based on a needs assessment, focusing on underserved and diverse production and processing environments and new educators
  • Providing professional development and technical assistance of NCR produce safety educators, growers, and processors.

As a result of the Center’s outreach efforts, according to the Center’s 2020-2021 Impact Report, 25 percent of growers in the region have modified on-farm infrastructure or equipment to improve food safety practices. Additionally, 76 percent of growers made a change on their farm to improve food safety practices since attending the Center-organized Grower Training Sessions.

FSMA was signed into law in 2011 and aims to strengthen the American food safety system by focusing on preventing foodborne outbreaks. 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 fruits and vegetables for human consumption.  The Preventive Controls Rule requires food facilities to have a food safety plan in place that includes an analysis of hazards and risk-based preventive controls to minimize or prevent the identified hazards.

This work is supported by the Food Safety Outreach Program [grant no. 2021-70020-35732] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.