Johns Hopkins University Responds to Food Safety Modernization Act with new Master of Science degree in Food Safety Regulation

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Written by: Thomas Colonna, PhD, JD and Lynn Langer, PhD, MBA.

We all need to eat and most of us in the US assume our food is safe to eat. However, according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports, about 15 percent of the food that Americans eat comes from abroad, more than double the amount just 10 years ago, including nearly two-thirds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The safety of the food supply, both foreign and domestic, is a critical public health issue. Consumers are eating rawer and minimally processed foods and some segments of the population that are especially susceptible to food-borne illnesses, such as older adults and immune-compromised individuals, are growing.

The implementation of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is still unfolding and is directly impacting the entire food industry. The FDA and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulate the safe practice of primary and secondary food products to the American public. Depending upon the source and nature of the food product, shipping methods, advertising of nutritional values, and other product details fall under the government of the FDA and USDA’s jurisdictions. Federal food safety activities include inspecting domestic food-processing facilities and imported food at ports of entry, visiting foreign countries or firms to inspect and evaluate foreign food safety systems, analyzing samples collected at food-processing facilities to identify possible contamination, rulemaking and standard setting, and developing guidance for industry.

These new rules and standards reflect consumers’ increasing awareness and concerns regarding the source and production of foods. While the food industry is responding to FSMA, it is not always clear what is necessary for full compliance as new rules and regulations unfold. In response to this need for clarity, Johns Hopkins University’s Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) launched the fully online M.S. in Food Safety Regulation in January 2015. The program is housed in AAP’s Center for Biotechnology Education, which has well-established online courses in the existing Biotechnology and Regulatory Science programs. The courses in the new degree are taught by highly qualified industry experts and well-regarded faculty. The curriculum for the online program was designed in consultation with industry professionals, FDA leaders, and curriculum design experts. The online courses follow the same rigor as onsite courses and are often taught by the same instructors.

The landscape of food safety regulation is currently undergoing extensive changes and as the field continues to change, the new MS in Food Safety Regulation program is designed to change with it. While the seven required core courses will remain constant, the content will adapt to changes in the rules and regulations. Similarly, the approved list of elective courses will be a living document that will include newly created courses developed based on changes in the industry. Students will also have the option to request course substitutions for required courses if they already have the appropriate knowledge and experience.

Learn more about Johns Hopkins University’s M.S. in Food Safety Regulation program.