The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) was established in 1996 as a jointly administered multidisciplinary research, education and outreach collaborative partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park (UM) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This collaboration was initiated due to the pending relocation of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) adjacent to the College Park campus. Early in 1996, Dr. David Kessler, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and Dr. William Kirwan, the President of the University of Maryland, held discussions on potential opportunities for cooperative interactions that would be of value to both institutions. The result of these meetings was the April 15, 1996 signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Initial partners in the collaboration were the University and CFSAN. Later, the MOU was amended to include the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
The actual operation of JIFSAN began with its initial funding from the University and through an FDA Cooperative Agreement on September 30, 1997. Professor Paul Mazzocchi, then Dean of Life Sciences at UM, served as Acting Director of JIFSAN until Dr. David Lineback was appointed Director in November 1998. Dr. Lineback retired on September 30, 2005. Dr. Maureen Storey was appointed Interim Director on October 1, 2005. On September 1, 2006 Professor Jianghong Meng was appointed as Acting Director and later (2009) Director of JIFSAN, a position he holds at present. JIFSAN moved into its current facilities in the Patapsco building adjacent to the FDA’s Wiley Building, the home of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in 2010.
JIFSAN’s original administrative organization included an Executive Committee; the Director and his immediate staff; the JIFSAN Working Group; and the FDA JIFSAN Liaison Staff. Currently, JIFSAN is administered primarily through the Director and his immediate staff; the JIFSAN Working Group which consists of University and FDA members; and four program managers overseeing and actively participating in JIFSAN’s programs.
The JIFSAN Advisory Council – a group with representatives from industry, consumer groups and academia – was established in 1999 by David Lineback. The Advisory Council, with 22 members presently, meets twice a year offering advice on JIFSAN programs, emerging issues and opportunities. These meetings also give the AC members the opportunity to interact with FDA administrators and scientists in a neutral environment. In 2011, the Advisory Council established an annual symposium series that explores food safety issues of interest to the AC members. Additionally, the AC provided expert advice and guidance to JIFSAN in the development of JIFSAN’s Strategic Plan.
Risk analysis is a major focus and cuts across the research, education and outreach components of JIFSAN’s program activities. JIFSAN programs and activities have evolved into the current primary components: Research including the undergraduate student internship program; International Food Safety Best Practices Training; Food Safety Risk Analysis including FoodRisk.org and the Food Safety Risk Analysis Professional Development Program; the International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL); and Symposia/Workshops.
The first program initiated by JIFSAN was its undergraduate student internship program. During the first year (June 1997) of the program undergraduate students from UM voluntarily worked with FDA scientists in the FDA laboratories which were then located in Washington DC and Laurel, MD. Once funding was established for JIFSAN, these voluntary internships were converted to paid internships. Currently, the internships are for a one-year period, from June through May each year. The internship program requires that each student fulfills a volunteer requirement of 100 hours prior to being eligible for a paid position. The program enables students to enhance their knowledge of and experience in science, particularly in the regulatory environment. Further, the FDA scientists – who are the students’ mentors – highly appreciate the contributions of these talented young people to CFSAN’s research and science program. Over 250 students have participated in the program since its inception in the summer of 1997. Many of the students are co-authors on scientific papers and meeting posters and several have chosen to pursue their careers at FDA.
The second program initiated was JIFSAN’s “Competitive Internal Research Program.” This program was established in 1998 to provide seed funding for food safety and nutrition related research projects that were investigator initiated. This program required collaborations between at least one University of Maryland faculty member (not limited to the Collage Park campus) and one or more FDA scientists. This program was discontinued in 2010 primarily due to funding restrictions.
JIFSAN’s current research program includes a Collaborative/Cooperative Research and an Extramural Research component. The portion of JIFSAN’s research program funded through the cooperative agreement is primarily “focused research projects” identified by CFSAN's program offices with faculty from the University of Maryland, other academic institutions or scientific organizations. Having the ability to fund research projects at other academic institution or external organizations expands the available scientific expertise to JIFSAN and FDA. The projects supported by JIFSAN go beyond traditional laboratory and field studies and include social and behavioral studies. Additionally, from FDA’s perspective, the student internship program is a critical component of CFSAN’s research and science program. Furthermore, JIFSAN's has a strong extramural research portfolio and the faculty is actively engaged in developing and submitting research grant proposals to other funding agencies.
One high impact project [See Box 2] was funded using JIFSAN non-cooperative agreement funds and was a critical component in the development of a virtual-retail deli Listeria monocytogenes risk assessment model used in the FDA-FSIS Interagency Retail Lm Risk Assessment.
In 2000, JIFSAN offered its first international training program –Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) – a training program focused on promoting safe food through good on-farm practices. The five-day program is offered by FDA and JIFSAN trainers and includes an on farm visit by the trainers and participants. The program works with collaborators in the host country who must provide in-country support. The GAP program served as a model for the development and operation of a series of JIFSAN training programs including: Good Aquacultural Practices (GAqP), Good Fishing Vessel Practices (GFvP), Food Inspector Training (FIT) and Commercially Sterile Packaged Food (CSPF [LACF/AF]). These programs are continuously modified and updated, an example of which is the addition of seafood HACCP training to the GAqP and GFvP programs (now GAqP/HACCP and GFvP/HACCP). The GAqP/HACCP and GFvP/HACCP programs provide AFDO (Association of Food and Drug Officials) Seafood HACCP certification to those who finish the program and who also have completed the seafood HACCP online course offered by Cornell University.
To date these training programs have been offered over 70 times in 24 different countries [See Box 3]. In most instances the training team consists of JIFSAN trainers and FDA personnel including staff located at FDA foreign posts when appropriate. In cases where the training venue is not an FDA priority only JIFSAN trainers participate. JIFSAN trainers come from industry, retired FDA scientists and faculty from academic institutions including: U. Oregon, Clemson U., Cornell U., U. Alaska, Miss. State U., UC Davis, and the U. of Maryland. In 2010, Dr. James Rushing was appointed as the first International Training Program Manager to oversee the increasing training program efforts. Recently, the governments of Jamaica and Belize have reached out to JIFSAN directly to provide training for their food safety specialists in GAPs. The Jamaican government is also funding a GAqPs course to be held in 2015. JIFSAN is actively involved with the Produce Safety Alliance (hosted by Cornell) and the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (hosted by IFSH at IIT), two Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) initiatives.
Funding for the development of all but the GAqP and CSFP programs has come from the cooperative agreement. The GAqP program was initially funded with a grant from JohnsonDiversey Corporation – the first non-FDA grant to JIFSAN and the start of efforts to diversify the JIFSAN support base. Since then, JIFSAN programs have been supported by USDA-FAS, USAID and industry. Starting in 2002, the host country has jointly supported all JIFSAN training programs. The host is required to provide local travel, housing, the training venue, and logistical support at an estimated cost of $30,000 per program. While the shared funding policy was implemented well before FSMA, it is based on several of the principles in the FDA International Capacity Building Plan and ensures the host country’s commitment to the effort while leveraging JIFSAN resources.
FoodRisk.org (originally the Food Safety Risk Analysis Clearinghouse until 2006) was launched in 2000. FoodRisk.org is the only online resource that specializes in food safety risk analysis, including risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication. FoodRisk.org provides exclusive access [see Box 4] to a number of unique data sets, tools, and resources, and is used by food safety experts to support risk assessment model building and data analysis. It provides a centralized information source for all areas of risk analysis related to food safety with an emphasis on microbial pathogens and their toxins. It is unique in its examination and documentation of state-of-the-art methods, data sources, and current results of on-going risk assessments providing an up-to-date picture of the state of food safety risk analysis. FoodRisk.org also hosts the Interagency Risk Assessment Consortium web page. The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) published a scientific opinion in early 2015 identifying FoodRisk.org and several of its exclusives as valuable resources/tools for food safety professionals in ranking food safety risks.
The Food Safety Risk Analysis Professional Development Program offers a summer integrated program, a residency risk analysis fellowship, customized in-country training, and on-line distance learning opportunities. JIFSAN has trained approximately 2000 food safety professionals from approximately 47 countries in risk analysis since 2002 [See Box 5 for recent participants]. In 2008, Dr. Juliana Ruzante was appointed the first Risk Analysis Program Manager and was succeeded by Dr. Clare Narrod in 2012.
The program was piloted in 2002 as a classroom program focused on the principles of food safety risk analysis as expounded by CODEX; and later extended to an on-line distant learning format, the development of which was funded by USDA-NIFA (formally CSREES). The initial program consisted of a set of core courses: Overview of Risk Analysis; Food Safety Risk Management; Food Safety Risk Communication; Food Safety Risk Assessment and two intermediate courses: Intermediate Quantitative Risk Assessment and Economics for Risk Analysis. In 2004, a strategic decision was made to create an integrated 3 week summer program covering the core courses and the Intermediate Quantitative Risk Assessment course. This provided increased opportunity for international food safety professionals to participate in the training. Additionally, JIFSAN has been commissioned to teach several in-country risk assessment courses.
The quantitative risk assessment course was revamped in 2012 and currently focuses on probabilistic methods and model building. Of the 2000 professionals trained since the inception of the program, 432 participants were trained in quantitative risk assessment. In 2013-14 JIFSAN increased its portfolio of courses focused on risk analysis to include an Advanced Quantitative Risk Assessment course with an Intro/Intermediate Quantitative Risk Assessment prerequisite course and an International Food Law course.
JIFSAN’s summer residency fellowship was established in 2011 – in partnership with ILSI. It is a 2 to 3-month program. After completing the 3-week summer integrated program, the fellows develop quantitative risk assessments populating it with data from their own country and guidance from risk assessors at the University of Maryland. Additionally, the fellows are introduced to the various US agencies that are part of the US food safety system and participate in several field trips to food companies. The first two fellows were young scientists from China’s Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA). In 2013, one participant from China was supported by ILSI-North America and one from Indonesia was supported by ILSI-Southeast Asia, and the program was extended to two individuals from Malaysia supported by the Malaysian government. To date eight individuals have participated in the program.
In 2010 JIFSAN established the first of its Global Collaborative Training Centers, the Aquatic and Aquaculture Food Safety Center (AAFSC), in collaboration with the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Federation (BSFF). The primary goal of these Centers is to work with in-country partners to build capacity of both regulators and industry in the use of international best practices in food safety management enhancing the safety of the food supply in a country or region. The AAFSC was officially established in 2010 based on discussions between JIFSAN, CFSAN’s Division of Seafood and BSFF at a GAqPs training event held in late 2009. JIFSAN and FDA provided training for a core group of AAFSC trainers through an extended U.S. internship. The AAFSC has developed a cadre of accomplished trainers to sustain in-country training and capacity building efforts within Bangladesh, to help ensure the production of safe aquaculture products. They have successfully obtained support from the Bangladesh government and other donors to expand its program throughout Bangladesh. AAFSC/BSFF has conducted a number of training programs and has been instrumental in having GAqP integrated into university curricula.
The success of the AAFSC led to the establishment of other collaborative centers and programs. In 2012, JIFSAN worked with CFSAN, the FDA’s India Office, the India Spices Board, and the Confederation of India Industry Food and Agriculture Center of Excellence (CII-FACE) to establish the Centre for Supply Chain Management for Spices and Botanical Ingredients (SCMSBI). In the short time SCMSBI has been in existence it has offered a number of training programs to producers and marketers. In 2013, a cooperative initiative focused on CSPF was established with King Mongkutt's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) in Thailand. With the core training program for the resident CSPF trainers completed in May 2014, KMUTT held 5 training events in late 2014 and plans are in place for additional in-country training efforts.
In February 2013, JIFSAN, Delta Professional Consultancy, and the Malaysia Ministry of Health initiated a three year project – The International Food Safety Training Centre Malaysia – focusing on building: laboratory testing capacity; risk analysis capabilities; increasing the skills of the Ministry’s food inspection staff; and increasing their understanding of global food laws and regulations. The courses offered to date include: GAqPs, FIT, Global Food Law, Risk Assessment (both in the U.S. and in Malaysia); and Basic Microbiological analyses (both in the U.S. and in Malaysia).
JIFSAN signed an agreement with Waters Corporation to establish the International Food Safety Training laboratory (IFSTL) in 2010. JIFSAN provided the space and Waters provided $4M for the construction of chemistry and microbiology laboratories, support space and a lecture facility. Funding from Waters covers construction and some operating with an expectation that the lab will become self-supporting through registration fees and external grants, a goal that will be shortly reached.
The IFSTL opened in 2011 and has operated under the guidance of Dr. Janie Dubois, the IFSTL Manager. The IFSTL is furnished with state of the art equipment from Waters and other leading vendors. The IFSTL offers courses in biological and chemical food safety analysis. The courses are “fit for purpose”, that is they are designed to teach participants instrument independent analytical techniques encompassing the most sophisticated to the simplest approach allowing effective analysis with whatever facilities are available.
The IFSTL first course – Pesticide Residue Analysis – was piloted in the UM Chemistry Department’s organic chemistry laboratories during June 2011. The participants came from APEC countries as part of an APEC/PTIN activity funded by FDA. The IFSTL repeated the Pesticide Residue Analyses course during its grand opening in September 2011. The participants for this course came from China. Currently, the IFSTL has 12 microbiology courses and 10 chemistry courses in its portfolio. And it offers custom designed courses – in both microbiology and chemistry – based on the client’s needs. To date, the IFSTL has hosted participants from 36 countries including the U.S. (See Box 6).
JIFSAN and FDA are active participants in the activities of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Food Safety Cooperation Forum (FSCF) Partnership Training Institute Network (PTIN) since its establishment in 2010. The PTIN provides a venue to engage the food industry and academics with the regulators to communicate and exchange scientific and technical information related to international food safety standards and best practices. A U.S. funded PTIN laboratory capacity assessment project was initiated in 2013 with JIFSAN taking a very active role. The project continues the development of a functional action plan for the region by taking a holistic approach toward addressing laboratory priorities and improving the reliability of data produced by APEC economies laboratories.
Building on the FSCF/PTIN and other efforts initiated by the World Bank, the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) – a public-private partnership – was formally launched in December 2012. The GFSP follows the APEC approach of combining the strengths of the public, private and knowledge sectors, and seeks to scale up this approach globally. The GFSP working groups include participants from industry, academia, governments, international organizations, and NGOs, including representatives from JIFSAN. JIFSAN’s IFSTL has the lead on a current GFSP pilot project with China related to building a global food safety laboratory methods training cadre.
JIFSAN has convened many workshops and symposia including the AC Annual Symposium series mentioned above. One long standing series was in partnership with the U.K. Food and Environmental Research Agency (Fera; previously the Central Science Laboratory). The series alternated between College Park, MD and York, U.K. Due to a recent U.K. government decision to sell Fera to the private sector, this series has been suspended. Additionally, JIFSAN has been the co-sponsor for several of the IRAC symposium/workshops. Some notable events include the Joint IRAC-JIFSAN Workshop on Listeria monocytogenes Dose Response in 2011 and the recent 2014 FDA/JIFSAN Dietetics and Nutrition Webinar.