Q: What is the mission of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance? How does it contribute to our understanding of cereal science in the context of the global food system?
A: The Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) is a public–private partnership established through a grant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The primary mission of the FSPCA is to develop curricula and a training platform that can be used to help FDA-regulated entities understand and comply with several of the rules published under the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The FSPCA is based at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute for Food Safety and Health in Bedford Park, IL. Although the FSPCA does have several full- and part-time employees, it relies primarily on volunteers from industry, academia, and government for technical expertise, teaching, and governance. The training provided by the FSPCA is an important component of FSMA implementation globally. The curricula provide both U.S. and international food companies and importers with a basic understanding of FSMA and how the law impacts them and the food trade. The elements of the curricula and courses also provide these companies with training on how to identify potential and likely hazards associated with their products (including grains and flours), strategies for mitigating identified hazards, and training on how to comply with FDA documentation requirements. As such, the FSPCA is a critical component of the global food system (GFS) that is helping to improve food safety both in the United States and globally.
Q: What is the focus of the FSPCA’s work? In what ways does the FSPCA bring innovation to the field of cereal science? How can it shed light on the challenges and opportunities in the GFS?
A: The primary focus of the FSPCA’s work is food safety. Unlike past efforts that relied mostly on a “command and control” regulatory paradigm, FSMA emphasizes prevention rather than response. FSMA regulations allow and encourage innovation in methods of identifying hazards and use of novel technologies as “preventive controls.” The training provided by the FSPCA specifically outlines challenges that food companies face in addressing food safety and regulatory compliance issues, as well as showcasing opportunities for adopting and validating new technologies.
Q: What are the core capabilities of the FSPCA? How many and what types of scientists does the organization employ?
A: The core capabilities of the FSPCA are training. As of January 2019, the FSPCA has trained more than 1,100 individuals in the United States and more than 600 individuals internationally to serve as “lead instructors” who can provide training in Preventive Controls for Human Foods. This has resulted in almost 80,000 individuals being trained globally in this topic. The backgrounds of our volunteers and instructors include a variety of disciplines, such as food science, microbiology, engineering, law, and related public health professions. These individuals possess a variety of degrees, ranging from B.S. degrees to Ph.D., J.D., and M.D. degrees.
Q: When was the FSPCA founded, and who were the key leaders who initiated the alliance? What are key milestones in its growth?
A: The idea of the FSPCA was conceived not long after the passage of FSMA in 2011. At that time, the U.S. Congress, FDA, and food industry recognized that this law was so different from previous food industry regulations, that a robust training program would be needed. The FSPCA was based on the Seafood HACCP Alliance, a similar public–private training program that successfully trained members of the seafood industry to comply with the Seafood HACCP rule. The first of the FSPCA’s curricula and courses, Preventive Controls for Human Foods, was launched in 2013 and was an immediate success. Since that time, training has been expanded to include Preventive Controls for Animal Foods, Foreign Supplier Verification, and Intentional Adulteration courses.
Q: In what ways has the alliance collaborated with the AACCI — Cereal & Grains Association? How does AACCI enable the FSPCA’s work, and how does the organization support AACCI?
A: The FSPCA has always striven to collaborate with industry groups such as the AACCI — Cereal & Grains Association. Many FSPCA industry and technical experts are AACCI members.
Q: How is the alliance engaged in government–industry–academic partnerships to enable innovation? Has it explored other innovation partnerships or collaborations?
A: The FSPCA was specifically set up to encourage and utilize the government–industry–academia partnership model. The governance and advisory board of the FSPCA purposely includes representation from trade associations, individual food companies, academicians, and regulators. In setting up the alliance, the organizers considered other partnership models and collaborations but decided that the model used by the Seafood HACCP Alliance was the best choice for the food industry and the type of training to be given.