The City of Newton Health and Human Services Department is pleased to announce receipt of a Food and Drug Administration grant in the amount of $350,000 over five years to improve its food safety program.
Nearly 40 grants were awarded funding across the country, but Newton is the only one in Massachusetts, and one of only two in New England.
"I am proud that Newton can serve as a model community in promoting the health and safety of our residents," said Mayor Setti D. Warren.
The project, called the City of Newton Prototype Program for Complying with Nine FDA Program Standards, provides funding to work toward compliance with nine FDA program standards designed to decrease risk of foodborne illness from foods prepared in a retail setting such as restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores.
"While Newton already participates in the voluntary FDA program, a more systematic approach and more documentation are required to fully comply" said Dori Zaleznik, Health and Human Services Commissioner. "This grant provides us an opportunity to develop systems to accomplish these tasks and then share them with other Massachusetts communities."
The $70,000 award for the first year will be spent primarily on hiring a part-time standards coordinator to oversee the project and purchasing or developing electronic food inspection software.
Proposed work in subsequent years includes enhancing training for food regulatory staff, documenting policies and procedures for food inspections, creating an advisory group comprised of restaurant owners and managers, developing a restaurant grading system, and implementing training programs for food establishment staff. Toward the end of the grant, funding is provided for outreach to other local health departments to share materials and lessons learned during the grant period. Sustainability is specifically addressed in the proposal to ensure compliance with the standards continues after the five-year award period.
"Our environmental health team is excited about this funding," said Robin Williams, a Newton senior environmental health specialist who also participates in a statewide committee working on implementation of these standards in Massachusetts. "It will enhance the way we work with restaurants in Newton and decrease the risk of foodborne illness."