Friday, December 30, 2011


It is said that prevention is better than cure and there cannot be a more articulate statement than this when it comes to managing food safety. In a country like the US where market recalls of suspected tainted foods are taking place with a sickening regularity, the latest action by the food safety agency there recently in forming a grand alliance of various stake holders in this critical area has not come a day sooner. The era when industry had to bother about the quality specifications to be adhered to within their manufacturing premises for ensuring safety of the products before releasing into the market, has gone and a whole gamut of safety protocols have come up that needs to be followed scrupulously. The new alliance among the safety agency, industry, academia and others involved can be expected to be a powerful management tool for reducing food poisoning episodes significantly if not eliminated altogether. Here is a take on this important initiative worth emulating in other countries also. 

"The alliance is composed of members from the FDA, local and state food protection agencies, the food industry, and academia. It is funded by a one-year, $1 million grant to the IIT IFSH, a nationally-recognized leader in food safety. The alliance will:     * develop standardized hazard analysis and preventive controls training and distance education modules for food industry and regulatory personnel;     * design and deliver a state-of-the-art distance learning training portal at the IIT IFSH Moffett Campus in Bedford Park, Ill.;     * develop "train-the-trainer" materials and student education delivery systems     * create a technical assistance network for small- and medium-sized food companies;     * develop commodity/industry sector-specific guidelines for preventive controls;     * assess knowledge gaps and research needs for further enhancement of preventive control measures; and     * identify and prioritize the need for, and compile, critical limits for widely used preventive controls. The food safety alliance is modeled on previous alliances for seafood and fresh produce developed by the FDA and groups representing academia, industry, and government. The Seafood HACCP Alliance was created in 1994, and the Produce Safety Alliance in 2010".

Universities where food science courses are organized are repositories of vast knowledge while their non-involvement with the manufacturing sector makes them singularly ineffective in channelizing their knowledge to the potential users. In India, for example there are at least two dozen academic bodies in different parts of the country imparting "theoretical" knowledge or transferring the "bookish material" to the students who are supposed to man the industry once they come out of these teaching shops! In general it can be safely said that many of these training institutions lack adequately experienced teaching personnel and proper "hands on facilities" to get acquainted with modern technological developments. Absence of even a rudimentary industry-University linkage makes the training program largely irrelevant to the needs of the industry. No wonder that not even 5% of the food industry can boast of a qualified food technologist in their payroll. It is time this situation is changed drastically to bring industry, University and the enforcement agencies together without further loss of time.


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