Food safety program to provide much-needed training in wake of new food safety rules

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Each year one in six Americans become sick from consuming contaminated foods or beverages. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also reports that annually 48 million people in the United States get sick from a foodborne illness. Of those, 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die. To prevent these outbreaks, new regulations have been put in place to reduce foodborne illness through preventative measures.

While the regulations went into effect in 2015, many in the food industry are unprepared to comply with the new rules, which require detailed food safety plans, said Michael and Charlie Kalish, twin brothers who have a consulting business that assists in developing food safety plans. To help address the need for training, the brothers will be leading a food safety workshop in partnership with UC San Diego Extension.

Cheese-makers by trade, the brothers gained valuable knowledge about food safety principles and new ways of approaching manufacturing and holding food while working on farms, manufacturing facilities and warehouses in Europe and the United States. Working as consultants to local creameries, they realized there was a need for more food safety training.

“When we started consulting, the opportunities that were popping up were food safety related,” said Michael. “Businesses really needed help developing food safety plans. What has made us successful is our ability to identify an opportunity. We gave it a shot and it has just exploded.”

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration published the final rule for the Food Safety Modernization Act, requiring facilities that manufacture, process, pack or hold food for consumption in the United States, be required to have a Preventative Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI). The new rules are considered the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years.

“The paradigm shift is not only going toward inspecting on good manufacturing practices but also looking for a documented food safety plan,” Michael said. “Now we are seeing not just inspection, but an audit. That’s one of the biggest changes.”

The FDA estimates that the new regulations will affect more than 83,000 food facilities requiring them to institute a number of new safety requirements as well as keep detailed records of their compliance.

The brothers recognized the growing need for highly knowledgeable professionals who could develop food safety plans for businesses of all sizes.

“Food safety regulation can be extremely convoluted, which is why there is a real need for professionals who specialize in food safety – someone who takes the time to read the fine print and gives these businesses what they need to make informed decisions,” said Michael.

Michael and Charlie Kalish became two of the country’s first and youngest Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance (FSPCA) lead Instructors and are now educating businesses around the country on how to comply with new federal regulations. They are partnering with UC San Diego Extension to put on a two-and-half day workshop from September 28 to September 30, 2016. This training, which the Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance developed, is the only standardized curriculum that the FDA recognizes for the new Preventive Controls for Human Food rule. Attendees who successfully complete the course will meet the requirements to be considered a preventive controls qualified individual, also known as a PCQI.

The workshop will benefit employees from a wide diversity of food businesses of all sizes across the supply chain, including manufacturers, warehouses, distributors and retailers/restaurants. Since 2007, national job postings for food safety experts increased more than 300 percent.

Because of that, the Kalish twins said there are not just more job opportunities but also there’s good money to be made. As it stands now, demand is outstripping supply when it comes to food facilities being able to find well-trained quality assurance professionals who can implement the Food Safety Modernization Act’s new rules.

“I think the industry, as far as food safety experts are concerned, could really use a lot more competent people who are eager to learn,” said Charlie. “Training is critical and learning how to apply food safety principles is the first thing you need to do.”

To find out more about UC San Diego Extension’s food-safety workshop, visithttp://extension.ucsd.edu/foodsafety.

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