Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS)

Added by Elizabeth Newbold • Last updated June 3, 2024
Author: Elizabeth Newbold
Type: Project (Food Safety Outreach Program - FSOP)

Food producers and processors have experienced the most significant food-related rule change in 40 years with the advent of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA, enacted 2011, in effect 2014). This regulation focuses attention on the prevention of foodborne illness during food production and processing which has particular relevance in the Northeast region. This region has rural landscapes with strong and diverse agricultural production, distributed food processing enterprises of varied sizes, and urban centers with large populations of consumers. The Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS) was established in 2016 with funding from the FDA and has focused on establishing a regional structure for food safety communication and collaboration, building regional trainer capacity and competency, developing supplemental materials and delivering educational events, evaluating performance, and sustaining good work. The NECAFS team&s numbers have grown from 9 at an early 2015 NEED/NERA funded planning meeting to 19 serving as an initial FDA proposal team, to over 433 regional and national participants in early 2018 after 2 years of NECAFS programming. NECAFS has demonstrated leadership in bringing diverse groups together around the topic of food safety including farmers, buyers, and processors, in addition to people working in academia, extension, state regulatory programs, industry, and community-based organizations. A combination of communication and facilitation strategies have supported this work by establishing a functional network leading to collective impact. A monthly eNewsletter highlights emerging topics and progress on food safety work from around the region and nation. Monthly webinars provide a low-cost, virtual meeting space with thematic focus and a means to provide regular personal connection among the network. An Annual Meeting attracts people from around the region and beyond to connect in person and move Workgroup efforts along. NECAFS& work has helped to integrate state and federal regulatory programs with extension and community-based educational programs, leverage field observations into research questions, foster outreach partnerships between community-based organizations and land-grant extension organizations, highlight grower- and processor-led initiatives in one state for potential adoption in other states, and provide space for unanticipated conversations, such as those around the role of buyers in the food safety arena.