CSU partnering to develop regional food-safety training center

FORT COLLINS — Colorado State University and five other land-grant universities in the Rocky Mountain region will partner on a Western Regional Food Safety Training Center at Oregon State University.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is funding the $1.2 million center, which will help small- and mid-size farms and food processors in 13 Western states prevent foodborne illnesses.

Researchers from Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming have formed a mountain states team and will coordinate trainings in their states and assist in the development of region-specific food safety materials to address local production challenges.

CSU will serve as the lead institution for the sub-region. Marisa Bunning, associate professor and food-safety specialist in CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, will coordinate training and curriculum-development activities. Another team, including Front Range regional specialist Martha Sullins and Boulder County’s agriculture and natural Resources specialist Adrian Card, will work with the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

Marisa Bunning, associate professor and food-safety specialist in CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, will coordinate training and curriculum development activities for the Western Regional Food Safety Training Center at Oregon State University. (Courtesy Colorado State University)
Marisa Bunning, associate professor and food-safety specialist in CSU’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, will coordinate training and curriculum development activities for the Western Regional Food Safety Training Center at Oregon State University. (Courtesy Colorado State University)

The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act, the most sweeping reform of food-safety laws in more than 70 years, was enacted in 2011. It aims to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

“Small farms and food processors have limited technical and financial means to comply with FSMA rules, unlike large farming operations and food manufacturers,” said Robert McGorrin, lead director of the training center and head of Oregon State University’s Food Science and Technology Department,” in a prepared statement. “This center will provide a large number of trainers across the region with the technical assistance to help them comply with the new rules.”

The center will also leverage existing food-safety training programs with community-based organizations, and food hubs and cooperatives, he added.

The trainings can be customized to fit a specific crop, whether it’s hazelnuts, tree fruits, potatoes or onions, McGorrin noted.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year in the United States, foodborne diseases sicken roughly one in six people and kill 3,000.