Q: What is the mission of the International Food Protection Training Institute? How does it contribute to our understanding of cereal science in the context of the Global Food System?
A: The mission of the International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI) is to protect public health and the global food supply by building workforce capacity. Augmented by close collaboration with other organizations, industry, academia, and federal, state, and international governments, IFPTI is the model for creating and fostering partnerships committed to addressing food protection and public health needs worldwide. IFPTI builds competency-based solutions for public- and private-sector food protection professionals. This translates to custom-designed learning organized around curriculum frameworks aligned with specific workforce competencies. Simply put, for any food protection or safety challenges anywhere in the world, IFPTI has the expertise, leadership, and systems in place to help solve them.
Q: What is the focus of IFPTI’s work? In what ways does IFPTI bring innovation to the field of cereal science? How can it shed light on the challenges and opportunities in the global food system?
A: Our focus is on the creation of a truly integrated food safety system (IFSS) as envisioned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Partnership for Food Protection and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). IFPTI is helping the FDA build a national curriculum standard (NCS) for food regulatory professionals across federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions. A key component of the NCS is a competency-based curriculum framework, which is a visual schematic showing the relationship between and among professional levels, core content or topic areas, and specialized program areas. During the past decade, IFPTI has facilitated more than 50 subject matter expert workshops that have identified the competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) needed by regulators of human and animal food products. Additionally, IFPTI developed the Sanitation Operator course in collaboration with the Kellogg Company. The course, which was designed specifically for the cereal and snack food industries, is currently offered through the IFPTI Learning Resource Portal.
Q: What are the core capabilities of IFPTI? How many and what types of scientists does the organization employ?
A: IFPTI possesses a variety of core capabilities. First, we specialize in developing competency-based learning systems, following the widely established ADDIE model (analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation). Second, members of our IFPTI staff are recognized experts in the food regulatory arena. CEO Gerald Wojtala and Senior Advisor David Read are both past presidents of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), and Curriculum Standard Manager Susan Brace held various leadership positions within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Third, IFPTI has an instructional systems design team that specializes in the design and development of online, face-to-face, and blended learning events. Fourth, IFPTI has developed instructor skills training (IST), which addresses the skills necessary for effective instruction. IST has been adopted by the FDA Office of Training Education and Development, and to date, more than 20 IST workshops have been delivered. Finally, IFPTI manages a learning management system that has been used by thousands of individuals to access learning events, create training records, and print certificates of completion. Although IFPTI employs no scientists, we have built an extensive network of food safety experts from government, academia, and the private sector who we can call upon to assist with the development of specific food safety training.
Q: When was IFPTI founded, and who were the key leaders who helped create the organization? What are some key milestones in its growth?
A: IFPTI was founded in 2009, largely to help in the creation of an IFSS in the United States that comprises competent regulators doing comparable work across federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions. The idea of the IFSS was first identified by AFDO, who realized the need to create an organization to assist agencies in training regulatory food protection professionals. FSMA further required the integration of our food safety system. With assistance from the FDA, the Partnership for Food Protection, the Kellogg Company, AFDO, and Battle Creek Unlimited, IFPTI was established in Battle Creek, MI, and later relocated to Portage, MI. Individuals who were instrumental in IFPTI’s creation include Stephen Benoit, first CEO of IFPTI and former leader within the Kellogg Company; Joe Corby, former AFDO president; Craig Kaml, IFPTI senior vice president; and Gerald Wojtala, former deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and current IFPTI executive director and CEO. Key IFPTI milestones include being awarded 5-year cooperative agreements with the FDA and the delivery of our Fellowship for Food Protection to seven Cohorts (with more than 60 alumni), with the 8th Cohort currently in session.
Q: In what ways has IFPTI collaborated with the Cereal & Grains Association?
A: Although IFPTI has had no direct collaboration with the Cereal & Grains Association, we have developed training and other learning resources for both regulatory food protection professionals and members of private industry. As mentioned earlier, we developed the Sanitation Operator course in collaboration with the Kellogg Company. Additionally, we have developed courses in partnership with the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, which was featured in the Cereal Foods World Spotlight article published in the March-April 2019 issue. These courses, along with dozens of others, are offered through the IFPTI Learning Resource Portal, and a course catalog can be found on our website.
Q: How is IFPTI engaged in government–industry–academia partnerships to enable innovation? Has IFPTI explored other partnerships or collaborations?
A: IFPTI has partnered with the FDA Office of Training Education and Development through cooperative agreements aimed at developing the NCS for the food regulatory profession in the United States. IFPTI closely collaborates with AFDO on a variety of projects and is helping to build a competency-based curriculum framework for the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL). IFPTI is also collaborating with APHL on developing a curriculum framework specific to the laboratory informatics field, through a project overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, IFPTI has a long history of collaboration with Michigan State University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and Tuskegee University. Internationally, IFPTI has helped the Canadian Food Inspection Agency build a competency-based NCS for multiple branches, including the Inspectorate, Advisory, Animal Feed, and Laboratory divisions. What is more, we recently embarked on a collaboration with the newly formed Egypt National Food Safety Authority and Land O’Lakes International to help with capacity-building.