IFSH Director Dr. Robert Backett Shares His Expertise at the Good Food Festival
Dr. Robert Brackett discussed the importance of outreach and education for the food industry regarding the newly implemented Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) at the Good Food Festival hosted by FamilyFarmed.org held at the UIC Forum on March 14, 2014.
Dr. Brackett sat on the panel for FSMA Impact on Food and Farm Business along with Ellen Phillips, Illinois Extension, Bob Borchardt, Harvest Moon Farms and Matthew Botos - CEO of ConnectFood.com was the moderator.Dr. Brackett and Mr. Botos agreed that the more companies that work together with academia and regulatory authorities the easier implementation of FSMA will be for all the food businesses. For additional information on FSMA, see the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, or ask a question at or at https://answers.connectfood.com.
Dr. Brackett delivers an address to the Chicago Council on Science and Technology
On March 12th Dr. Robert Brackett spoke about the new philosophy in global food safety that focuses on prevention technologies like high pressure processing, pulsed light, and cool plasma that minimize occurrences of adulterated products reaching consumers, and genome sequencing to identify potential hazards.
Dr. Brackett Spoke at the 14th Annual Illinois Food Safety Symposium
"How Food Safety Problems Influence Food Safety Policy" was delivered at the 14th Annual Illinois Food Safety Symposium at the Doubletree by Hilton, Bloomington, IL.
The symposium provided a forum for the discussion of food safety issues and an opportunity for professional growth, networking and educational enrichment for professionals in the fields of public health, agriculture, dairy, education, food service and those who promotes food safety and reducing the incidence of food-borne illness.
Dr. Brackett Talks to a Local News Station About Foodborne Illness
Dr. Robert Brackett spoke to ABC 7 Eyewitness News about Foodborne Illness and the new technologies currently under development designed to decontaminate food ingredients. For the complete details, see the Video and Transcript.
2013 IFSH Annual Meeting
The 2013 IFSH Annual Meeting was held on Tuesday, September 17 at 8:00 AM, and Wednesday, September 18 at 4:00 PM (CDT) at Burr Ridge, IL.
Water Quality and Food Safety Symposium
on September 19, 2013
The Water Quality and Food Safety Symposium was co-sponsored by IIT's Institute for Food Safety and Health and the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Food Research Institute (FRI).
IFSH Partners with Global Midwest Alliance and Griffith Laboratories
IFSH is pleased to partner with the Global Midwest Alliance and Griffin Laboratories to present a unique event entitled “Global Food Demand: Opportunity for the U.S. in the Growth of Emerging Markets”. The event will be held on June 26 at the Union League Club of Chicago. Click here for details.
Bob Brackett, IFSH Director, Featured On The Knife and Fork Show
(Bedford Park, IL) January 18, 2013 - Bob Brackett joins Jason Huffman, Editor and Chief of Food Chemical News, to share his list of food safety technologies he finds most exciting heading into 2013. For the complete video click here.
IIT Institute for Food Safety and Health Announces Sprout Safety Alliance Website Launch
(Bedford Park, IL) June 15, 2012 – Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute for Food Safety and Health (IIT IFSH) is pleased to announce the launch of the Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) website, www.iit.edu/ifsh/sprout_safety.
IIT IFSH is coordinating the national alliance, a public-private partnership funded by a cooperative grant through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Foods. The SSA is designed to assist sprout growers and producers in identifying and implementing best practices in the safe production of sprouts. The alliance will develop a core curriculum and training and outreach programs for stakeholders in the sprout production community.
The SSA web pages, hosted by IIT IFSH, feature a range of sprout safety resources and educational materials, committee and working group rosters, government and industry links, upcoming event listings, and more.
"SSA's online presence is a vital part of our education and outreach toolbox," said Stephen Grove, PhD, IIT IFSH Industry Projects Manager and SSA co-coordinator. "The website is designed to help stakeholders quickly and easily find best practices and training resources."
IIT Institute for Food Safety and Health Launches FDA Funded Sprout Safety Alliance
(Bedford Park, IL) February 28, 2012 – Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute for Food Safety and Health (IIT IFSH) will coordinate the Sprout Safety Alliance (SSA) designed to assist sprout growers and producers in identifying and implementing best practices in the safe production of sprouts.
The Sprout Safety Alliance is a one-year, $100,000 partnership grant funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Foods through the IIT IFSH-FDA collaborative agreement. The alliance will be housed at IIT IFSH, which introduced in 2011 a groundbreaking audit checklist to improve sprout safety along with on-site beta test results validating its effectiveness in a real-world setting via the institute's Sprout Safety Task Force.
The new public-private organization will develop core curriculum, training and outreach programs for stakeholders in the sprout production community to enhance the industry's understanding and implementation of pending sprout safety regulatory requirements.
"Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge due to the warm, moist and nutrient-rich conditions required for their production," said IIT Vice President and IFSH Director Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D. "For example, certain food safety practices used by sprout growers and sprout seed and bean producers, such as testing spent irrigation water and pre-sprouting seed disinfection procedures, are unique to this commodity. The Sprout Safety Alliance coordinated by IIT IFSH will foster scientific collaboration in an effort to enhance food safety action items, training and regulatory compliance for this industry sector."
The education and outreach efforts of the Sprout Safety Alliance, Brackett continues, will be directed toward assisting producers in this specific category within the produce sector to enhance safety now and comply with upcoming regulations, when final. The SSA's objectives are to:
· Develop training materials that assist sprouters in adopting best practices for the safe production of sprouts based on available FDA guidance documents and other information
· Provide tools to assist growers in conducting self-audits of their sprouting facilities and production practices to minimize microbial hazards associated with sprouts
· Develop training materials that facilitate industry understanding of risks associated with sprouts, current mitigation practices, and implementation of the sprout-related requirements in the upcoming produce safety regulation, when final
· Serve as a network hub and resource for the sprout industry, buyers, retailers, and federal and state regulatory agencies
· Develop a technical assistance network for the sprout industry
· Collaborate with USDA, states, trade associations and land-grant university extension services to provide classroom and distance training and workshops for stakeholders across the U.S.
The alliance coordinators are Stephen Grove, Ph.D., IIT IFSH Manager, Industry Projects, and Joy Johanson, MPH, Consumer Safety Officer, FDA's Center for Food Safety and Nutrition (CFSAN). The SSA Steering Committee consists of representatives from IIT IFSH, federal and state government agencies, academia, and trade associations. Development of subcommittees, governance and structure of the SSA are in progress.
IIT IFSH will host web pages for the alliance's progress updates. Materials are expected to become available in mid-March 2012.
For more information on the SSA and other FDA-related Alliances, please visit www.fda.gov/fsma
IIT Institute for Food Safety and Health Receives FDA Funding for Preventive Controls Alliance and Training
(Bedford Park, IL) December 21, 2011 – Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute for Food Safety and Health (IIT IFSH) will coordinate a national food safety alliance designed to assist the human and animal food industry in complying with upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)-related preventive control regulations.
The new Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) is a one-year, $1 million partnership grant funded by the FDA Office of Foods through the IIT-IFSH-FDA collaborative agreement. Funding has been allocated to the development of a standardized industry-oriented training curriculum, including hands-on and web-based training modules. The curriculum will be widely available to those who will provide training to the industry. IIT IFSH also will establish a distance learning training portal at its Bedford Park, IL-based campus.
The FSPCA will provide and disseminate the technical and scientific basis for identifying hazards associated with specific food commodities and industry sectors per the FSMA regulations. The group will also develop preventive control models for major industry sectors, and provide guidance to industry for maintaining preventive controls.
In 2012, the FDA is expected to issue a proposed rule on the hazard analysis and preventive control measures for food facilities. The FSPCA initiatives are designed to provide U.S. food facilities, particularly small- and medium-sized companies, the science-based information required for compliance with these pending regulations, said IIT Vice President and IFSH Director Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D.
“IIT's Institute of Food Safety and Health is particularly well-placed to coordinate the activities of this vital alliance,” said Brackett. “With key provisions related to the preventive controls component of the FSMA coming to the fore next year, the time is now for all stakeholders to work together to ensure that all food companies, no matter their size, have access to the education and training that will be needed to ensure compliance.”
The goal of the alliance, Brackett added, is to serve even the smallest companies wherever they are based. "The new learning portal that IIT IFSH will establish through the alliance will be invaluable in reaching such companies with practical compliance information."
The alliance's organizing committee recently began the process of steering committee selection at its first face-to-face meeting Dec. 20-21, 2011, at the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington, DC.
"In addition to IIT IFSH and FDA officials, the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance steering committee will include representatives from stakeholder groups in academia, human and animal food industry trade and scientific associations, and government," said Purnendu C. Vasavada, Ph.D., FDA ORISE Fellow and FSPCA coordinator. "We expect that the steering committee will be named and announced by the end of the year, and technical working groups formed by mid-January 2012."
Vasavada also reported the group's significant progress in a number of areas, including formalizing agreement on alliance management and organizational structure, creating a work plan and timeline for technical working group assignments, and drafting a list of proposed mechanisms for development of the training curriculum.
Click the link below to view FDA's most recent press announcement mentioning the FSPCA:
IFSH to Host Sprout Safety Training Workshop at ISGA Convention in October
(Bedford Park, IL) Sept. 23, 2011 - The Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) will unveil a unique audit checklist designed to improve sprout safety and present a first look at on-site beta test results validating its effectiveness in a real-world setting at the International Sprout Grower's Association (ISGA) Annual Convention, October 17-21, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV.
The IFSH Sprout Safety Training Workshop will take place on Wednesday, October 19 at the convention's headquarters in the MGM Grand Hotel from 1:55 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
The ground-breaking sprout safety checklist is the product of IFSH's Sprout Safety Task Force, which identifies critical research needs and develops food safety guidance required for the safe production of sprouts. IFSH member sprout growers and allied stakeholders in the task force include ISGA, Jonathan Sprouts, Caudill Seed, Brassica Protection Products, and IIT and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists.
The October workshop is the first in a series aimed at sharing information gathered by the IFSH Sprout Safety Task Force and introducing the newly beta-tested audit checklist. The document is designed to serve as a practical tool for sprout growers to use when reviewing their operation's food safety practices and as a guide when requesting a sprout-specific third party audit.
An independent review panel, comprised of representatives from FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), universities, retail grocery operators, produce associations, and allied sprout industry service companies, recently gave a green light to the initial test run of the document in a working operation.
"The IFSH Sprout Safety Task Force is confident that this sprout safety audit checklist document will be beneficial to the sprout industry as it continues to develop strong science-based approaches to address the unique challenges of ensuring the safety of these products," said Armand Paradis, IFSH director, business development and co-chair of the Sprout Safety Task Force. "We look forward to receiving feedback from stakeholders at these workshops about the usefulness of the checklist to validate its suitability for broad adoption by the sprout industry."
In addition to an expert report by Wil Sumner of Sumner Analytical Services on the results of the recent field test of the audit checklist in a sprout production operation, the IFSH Sprout Safety Training Workshop will feature presentations by several scientific research, government and industry leaders, including:
• Overview of the IFSH Sprout Safety Task Force, Jason Wan, IFSH
• The Regulatory Perspective on Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Associated with Sprouts, Michelle Smith, FDA
• Sprout Audit Checklist Highlights, Barb Sanderson, Jonathan Sprouts
• Inspections and Outbreak Investigations: Lessons Learned, Patrick Kennelly, California Department of Public Health
• Industry Best Practices Panel Discussion, (Panelists): Paul Battaglia, Brassica; Kelly Warren, ISS; Barb Sanderson, Jonathan Sprouts; Jay Louie, Louie Foods International; and T.J. Fu, FDA
The IFSH Sprout Safety Training Workshop is free to all full conference attendees, and other interested parties can reserve space for a nominal fee of $25.00. Please visit the ISGA website for online registration details, or contact Armand Paradis, IFSH Director Business Development at 708.563.8175 for workshop program information.
Secretary of Agriculture Announces $25 Million Norovirus Collaborative Grant
(Milwaukee, WI) August 3, 2011 – The Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), is one of more than 30 institutions awarded a $25 million collaborative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to strengthen food safety by studying human noroviruses across the food supply chain in an effort to design effective control measures and reduce the number of virus-caused foodborne illnesses.
The grant was officially announced today by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the International Association for Food Protection Annual Meeting in Milwaukee, WI. Secretary Vilsack told the audience of food safety professionals that USDA NIFA has made food safety research one of its top priorities. Last year, NIFA funded more than $70 million in food safety research and education projects.
"Today, I'd like to announce a $25 million award to study human noroviruses across the food supply chain," said Secretary Vilsack. "This is important work, and will help us understand how human noroviruses are transmitted and survive in food, and ultimately strengthen our efforts to control them. Enhancing our understanding of human noroviruses is the first step toward reducing the number of foodborne illnesses they cause."
The $25 million grant will fund the development of a team of researchers, led by North Carolina State University, to establish the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative to increase understanding of foodborne viruses through a range of scientific studies and education initiatives.
"IFSH is excited to be a partner and contribute to the goals of this important project," said Robert E. Brackett, PhD, IIT vice president and IFSH director, following the announcement.
Alvin Lee, PhD, IFSH director of microbiology and a consortium co-project director and theme leader for preventive controls, says the institute's Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) biocontainment facility offers unique capabilities to the project. "IFSH is contributing to the grant its specialized capabilities in developing and validating processing technologies, in particular high pressure processing and high power ultrasound technologies to control foodborne viruses."
Human noroviruses are the most common cause of foodborne disease, responsible for more than 5 million cases in the United States each year. Noroviruses spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces. Molluscan shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels, fresh produce and foods that are extensively handled just prior to consumption are at greatest risk for contamination.
The project has six core objectives:
· Develop improved methods of studying human noroviruses and their role in foodborne illnesses.
· Develop and validate rapid and practical methods to detect human noroviruses.
· Collect and analyze data on viral foodborne illnesses – including how they are transmitted – and provide risk and cost analyses.
· Improve understanding of how human noroviruses behave in the food-safety chain in order to develop scientifically justifiable control measures.
· Develop online courses and curricula for food safety and health professionals and food service workers, and provide information to fresh produce and shellfish producers and processors on the risks, management and control of foodborne viruses.
· Develop a public literature database, build virus research capabilities in state public health laboratories, and develop graduate-level curricula to educate masters and doctoral students trained in food virology.In addition to IFSH, the core team includes scientists from lead institution North Carolina State University, Clemson University, Baylor College of Medicine, Emory University, Research Triangle Institute, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Georgia, NC A&T State University, and NC Central University. Other key collaborators hail from the University of Delaware, the Ohio State University, Louisiana State University, the U.S. FDA and USDA Agricultural Research Service, Arizona State University, New Mexico State University, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Rutgers University. Various industrial and government stakeholders will serve the collaborative in advisory capacity.
IFSH Library FAO Collection Indexed
In July 2011 IFSH Librarian David Griesemer completed indexing more than 5,700 volumes of material produced by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The indexing of the FAO Collection represents more than two years of work that started when former IFSH (NCFST) Director, Martin Cole, made the decision to integrate FAO material into the library's collection in 2009.
Currently, the IFSH Library is one of 12 libraries in the United States that receives FAO material on a regular basis. The FAO material at the IFSH Library dates back to 1945, and is expected to play an important role in the growth of IFSH's academic programs.
"In addition to the volume of materials of use to our graduate and professional development students," adds Griesemer," the FAO collection supplements the monograph collection, which FDA and IFSH staff members will find valuable as well. Also, IFSH corporate and allied members, who can use the facility when on site, will benefit from the tremendous amount of statistical data available in the FAO collection, on topics spanning pesticides to post-harvest loss rates."
The story of the FAO Collection at IFSH, however, really dates back to 1994 when IIT's Chicago-Kent School of Law shipped 90 boxes of FAO material to IFSH. At the time, the library did not have sufficient shelf space to house the material and it remained unboxed in the library's basement for the next 15 years.
"The situation with the FAO Collection began to change in 2009 with the completion of numerous material relocation projects that freed up additional shelving space," says Griesemer, who joined IFSH as librarian in 2008. Once the decision was made to retain the FAO material, he adds, it was unboxed and arranged alphabetically on the library's second floor according to monograph title and series title. Deciding how to effectively index the FAO material proved to be more problematic.
"Normally the material would have been cataloged by IIT's Galvin Library, allowing it to be displayed by the library's Online Public Access Catalog. At that time, however, the Galvin Library was in the process of cataloging the IFSH Library's entire upstairs circulating collection," Griesemer says.
To solve this problem, and to ensure that FAO material could be effectively located, Griesemer decided to copy individual FAO cataloging records from the FAO's Online Public Access Catalog, and then paste those records verbatim into an Excel Spreadsheet listing FAO material at IFSH.
This meant that FAO material at IFSH could be now be easily searched and located using the FAO's Online Public Access Catalog in conjunction with the Excel Spreadsheet's find function. According to Griesemer, the ability to locate FAO material at IFSH is significant for myriad reasons: First, approximately 1,200 volumes of the FAO Collection relate directly to the IFSH academic curriculum. This represents a 20% addition to the library's monograph collection.
Says Griesemer, "FAO material is often written in outline format by scholars, making it perfect for graduate students who wish to augment their understanding of a topic. Some serials of particular relevance include the Food and Nutrition Paper, the Microbiological Risk Assessment Series, the Legislative Study Series, and of course, the Codex Alimentarius. In addition, the collection includes various monographs related to genetics, microbiology, laboratory procedures, HACCP, and food processing."
For more information on how to search for FAO material at IFSH, please link to the IFSH Food Science and Technology Library Guide.
Institute for Food Safety and Health Launch Event Attracts More Than 100 Visitors
The Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH), Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), celebrated its official opening with keynote commentary from IIT, state and federal dignitaries and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 11. More than 100 guests attended the event held in the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) pilot plant from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The inaugural launch event marked the National Center for Food Safety and Technology's (NCFST) transition to a principal operating center within the newly formed IFSH organizational structure, which also includes three others: the Center for Processing Innovation, Center for Nutrition Research, and Center for Specialty Programs.
"The Institute for Food Safety and Health is a product of the remarkable success and expansion of the National Center for Food Safety and Technology," said Brackett. "As the food industry has advanced technologically, the supply chain has become more globally integrated, consumer attitudes about nutrition have evolved, and government has worked to modernize food safety regulation. This institute has responded in kind. In recent years, our operations and facilities have expanded to include research in human clinical nutrition and health. We've started a virology program and have built an FDA-commissioned and certified Biosafety Level 3 laboratory and pilot plant."
These enhancements, said Brackett, have positioned IFSH as key player in partnering with stakeholders to contribute science-based solutions to assure positive food safety and nutrition outcomes, especially as new requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) come into force.
IIT President John Anderson noted the importance of the newly established institute achieving the university's mission. "IFSH is the natural progression of the 20 years of success of NCFST, a partnership between IIT, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the food industry. The university's vision is to be internationally recognized in distinctive areas of education and research using as its platform the global city of Chicago, driven by professional and technology oriented focus, and based on a culture of innovation and excellence. IFSH is a key component of our vision."
In addition to Brackett and Anderson, the opening event also featured commentary by dignitaries from industry, state and federal government, and IIT, including FDA Associate Commissioner for Food Protection Jeff Farrar, US Representative Dan Lipinski, Illinois Director of Public Health Damon T. Arnold, Executive Vice President of Research, Development and Quality for Kraft Foods Jean E. Spence, and IIT Vice President & Motorola Chair Professor in Chemical Engineering Darsh Wasan.
To read commentary from the event's VIP speakers, please view the press release on this site.
IFSH Inaugural Opening and Tour Scheduled for April 11
On April 11, 2011, VP and Director Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D., will officially announce that the National Center for Food Safety and Technology (NCFST) will become a principal operating unit within the newly formed Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). The IFSH Inaugural Opening and Tour will showcase new facility capabilities to invited industry, government and IIT stakeholders and members of the media.
The new institute will create "centers" as separate but interactive lines of business comprising the IFSH organizational and administrative structure to streamline research activities and projects to better meet the needs of its members in government, industry and academia. The restructured, streamlined organization strongly positions IFSH to better assist the nation's food companies and regulators with practical, authoritative science-based knowledge, especially in light of new requirements arising from the recent passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
IFSH Signs Memoradum of Understanding with USDA-ARS and Australia's CSIRO
In the first quarter of 2011, IFSH signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreements with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) (.pdf).
BSL-3 Facility Receives Certification
The Institute for Food Safety and Health (formerly National Center for Food Safety and Technology (NCFST), Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), has achieved certification of the institute’s Biosafety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory and biocontainment pilot plant. The laboratory certification audit was conducted in October, and the official certificate was issued by World BioHazTec Corp. on Nov. 30, 2010.
The certification acknowledges that the facility meets the Centers for Disease Control/National Institutes of Health (CDC/NIH) Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories Guidelines (5th ed.). Construction of the 7,000-sq.-ft. BSL-3 facility was completed in 2008, and the facility was commissioned in 2009. BSL-3 facilities allow for safe and secure work with bacterial, viral and parasitic agents that may cause serious or potentially lethal disease to humans.
The BSL-3 facility consists of a laboratory and pilot plant in which collaborative and contract research and validation of processes can be conducted by simulating real-world applications using large-scale processing equipment and larger volumes of microorganisms. The facility has been conducting research with nonpathogenic surrogates and BSL-2 organisms using BSL-3 procedures to allow for standard operating procedures and emergency response plans to be thoroughly validated and tested prior to certification and registration for use with select agents, and large quantities of BSL-2 and BSL-3 organisms.