VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH - FOOD AND LODGING PROGRAM Conformance with the Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards Vermont is a small New England state with a population of approximately 620,000 people. The Vermont food landscape is diverse, with many small producers and processors of local products from farm to table. When measured by employment and gross state product, food manufacturing is the second-largest manufacturing industry in Vermont. The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) is the state's lead agency for public health policy and advocacy. State regulatory jurisdiction over food producers is shared between the Vermont Department of Health and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM). The Vermont Department of Health Food &Lodging Program (VDHFL) is responsible for inspection and licensing of approximately 6,000 establishments throughout the state that includes both retail establishments and manufactured food producers. Inspection activities and outreach to manufactured food producers comprises approximately 20% of VDHFL program resources and work, and continues to grow steadily. VDHFL has been enrolled in the Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards (MFRPS) since the 2008-2009 contract year, and has used the self-assessment process and Standards as a means for identifying program improvements needed for the inspection, regulation, enforcement, and outreach for Vermont food processors. The VDH Food and Lodging Program inspection staff consists of seven Public Health Sanitarians located throughout the state, which are responsible for licensing and inspection of the food establishments within their geographic area. A comprehensive improvement plan was developed that serves as the Strategic Plan for the state program. The main obstacles that have slowed achievement of full conformance and implementation have been personnel resources and funding for IT infrastructure. VDHFL is proposing cooperative agreement funding for replacement of the 25-year old Legacy database that supports program licensing and inspection data, and support for VDH Information Technology personnel dedicated to the replacement project. VDHFL is also proposing funding to support two Public Health Sanitarian positions to complete inspection work and improve the inspector-to-establishment ratio needed for adequate food safety evaluation and compliance follow-up (Standards 3 and 8). 1
The Vermont Department of Health (VDH) is applying for cooperative agreement funding to support achieving conformance with MFRPS and the overall goal of improving food safety and protection from farm to table in Vermont. The mission of VDH is To protect and promote optimal health for all Vermonters. There is a public health need to improve regulatory program activities, resources and infrastructure, and modernize dated equipment. Support for local food production has been growing, and increasing local food production in Vermont is seen as an ideal way to grow local businesses and create local jobs. This has led to an increase in the amount of food processors and local food products available for distribution. Funding for MFRPS conformance, which includes information technology modernizations and inspection personnel, is needed to address food safety needs for Vermont producers and processors in order to protect the public health.