Rural Area Food Training and Safety (RAFTS) Summary: The Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) and the Franklin County Cooperative Public Health Service (CPHS) propose RAFTS as a 5-year project to develop and implement a strategic plan that will address the systemic problems associated with food safety in rural jurisdictions in Franklin County as well as most of Western Massachusetts. The FRCOG/CPHS is applying for FDA funding to enable a rural regional health department to take steps to better protect its population by achieving greater conformance with the Retail Program Standards. Massachusetts is the seventh smallest state in the nation, but has the highest number of local health departments ? 351. This leads to great fragmentation and a lower standard of public health protections than in much of the rest of the nation. The participating towns, which have all enrolled in the Program Standards, propose to build a system for improved workforce training of food handlers and food inspectors, standardization and increased enforcement uniformity, and improved industry communication and relations. The lack of FDA standardized inspectors across the region results in inconsistency in inspections, imprecise code application, and non-uniform compliance efforts. There is currently not any publicly accessible information about food inspection results or compliance status for retail food establishments in rural jurisdictions. An outcome of this project will be a regional system that tracks permit status, inspection results, and compliance history which is capable of producing reports that can then be shared with industry and the public. Increasing the public's access to food safety information will be a significant improvement and should lead to greater consumer confidence in the food safety program, and should help to prioritize funding for this essential public health service. The VNRFRPS will be used as the framework for the creation of the RAFTS program. The improvements in rural regional retail food safety will be a great step forward for public health in Massachusetts, and will provide a model for cross-jurisdictional sharing on food safety.
The Rural Area Food Training and Safety (RAFTS) Project will improve public health protections for residents of a rural area by using new technology, training, and collaboration to improve seven towns? conformance with the Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards.