The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has launched a countrywide assessment that aims to identify opportunities for education and training for retail food regulators. The assessment was developed as part of the joint NEHA and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Retail Flexible Funding Model (RFFM) Grant Program and will be promoted widely. The assessment’s findings will be leveraged to bolster educational resources, close knowledge gaps, and improve workforce capabilities to ensure safe retail food for the public.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 people living in the U.S. (48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne illness every year. Local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal environmental public health and agricultural departments, agencies, and organizations make up the retail food regulatory community and are responsible for preventing and responding to foodborne illness.

NEHA described the assessment as a “national census of the retail food regulatory community” that is significant because of what it includes and who it surveys. The agency expresses that, with many competing interests pursuing the same financial resources, it is important to determine where funding for training initiatives is most urgent. The survey will examine the intersection between curricula and practical needs in the retail food regulatory community to identify the gaps in the integrated food safety system.

NEHA states that a comprehensive training infrastructure for retail food safety regulatory professionals is an essential component in preventing foodborne illness. The information gathered by the national survey will inform decisions about food safety training and resources for the foreseeable future.

All individuals working in retail regulatory food safety are encouraged to complete the survey. It will remain open until the fall of 2022.