Georgia recently welcomed visitors from Ireland as part of a novel Inspector Exchange Program co-hosted by the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) and Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (AFM).
“The Inspector Exchange Program with Ireland intertwines the knowledge, skills and best practices between our two agencies, sharing information with a global perspective,” said Gary W. Black, Agriculture Commissioner for the State of Georgia. “This experience has allowed us to discuss new and ongoing import and export initiatives, focusing on current challenges and promoting agriculture here in the U.S.
The vision began last year and took several months to coordinate. GDA inspectors traveled to Dublin, Ireland on Oct. 1 for a ten-day tour where they had a first-hand look at Ireland’s artisan dairy products, beverage production, meat processing, bakeries and supermarkets.
“One of our primary focuses was to gain a better understanding of each other’s food safety programs from a variety of types of regulated facilities, as well as foundational elements,” said Natalie Adan, division director of Food Safety at the GDA. “We’ve been able to do a peer review of existing policies and procedures, which will, in turn, strengthen each other’s food safety programs.”
Ireland’s Minister of Agriculture, Jeff Creed partnered with Commissioner Black and the GDA to develop the exchange program. AFM hopes to expand Ireland’s sheep industry into a viable trade with the U.S. The GDA welcomed Superintending Veterinary Inspector Ann Scanlon and Dairy Controls and Export Certifier Damien O’Meara from AFM. The two have extensive background knowledge of Ireland’s meat industry and spent a week helping to broaden and share best practices with the GDA. Their visit to Georgia included meeting state and federal officials at the GDA in Atlanta, touring laboratories, shellfish facilities, dairy farms and milking plants, and a sheep processing facility.
The importance of an integrated food safety system means taking an international approach to enhancing food safety for consumers on every continent. As the exchange program concludes here in Georgia, the GDA and AFM plan to continue building and maintaining interagency collaboration. The two organizations hope to generate national and international awareness by sharing the successes and cooperative learning experiences gleaned from the program.