The University of Idaho-Washington State University School of Food Science and Seoul National University’s Department of Food and Animal Technology recently signed a memorandum of understanding to create a Center for Applied Food Safety and Processing.
According to the universities, the center will address global food safety and processing issues and help ensure “a safe and wholesome” worldwide food supply through research and training.
“Our food industry is becoming increasingly globalized, and major markets for many PNW agricultural and manufactured products are in the Pacific Rim,” said Barbara Rasco, interim director of the UI-WSU school.
The center is the first of its kind, she said, and is focused on providing technical support for trade in food science, intended to use science to address problems faced by Northwest and Korean producers and processors.
Washington, Idaho and South Korea are major agricultural trading partners, Rasco said.
New Trans-Pacific trade agreements mean new opportunities for selling agricultural products into those Pacific markets, Rasco said, but the industry needs to increase its understanding of the markets and their safety and regulatory requirements. The center will help companies understand the technical requirements for market entry.
“Expanding markets for PNW products are greatest in Asia, and our farmers and producers need full access to these markets if we are to remain competitive,” she said. “SNU is centrally located and provides a ‘trained ear’ on the market needs and related activities in south and east Asia.”
The center will provide producers and processors with technical support to meet food safety requirements, value-added product development and insight into pending non-tariff trade barriers.
In the short term, the industry needs to comply with the new Food Safety Modernization Act, Rasco said, as well as similar regulations developed by other countries in response. Producers may face retaliatory actions in response to “real and perceived” trade barriers the act creates.
“The center will address this problem by assisting with preparation of appropriate good agricultural practice plans and food protection plans, microbiological testing and protocols, process validation and verification,” she said.
The joint effort allows the universities to exchange research findings and industry technology transfer and training. Rasco expects increased joint projects between the universities in 2014 and 2015.
Dong-Hyun Kang, professor and director of the South Korean department, will visit the school in the United States in December to help develop programs for the center for 2015.
Kang’s team at SNU is working on applications of LED-generated ultraviolet light for sanitation.
“It appears that these technologies have great promise and overcome many of the drawbacks experienced with the use of conventional UV commonly used in the U.S.,” Rasco said.
The School of Food Science has provided thermal process certification training for Korean processors to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements.
Kang is a former faculty member at WSU and has more than 15 years experience working with PNW farmers, ranchers and producers in food safety extension and microbiology, Rasco said.
Rasco welcomes feedback from stakeholders to determine what else the center can do to support the regional food sector.
UI-WSU School of Food Science: http://sfs.wsu.edu
Seoul National University: