Food processing and packaging experts from Russia and the New Independent States are participating in an eight-week training program on food processing started in March at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. The aim is to introduce the experts to U.S. government and private-sector standards and regulations related to agricultural production and inspection processes for the delivery of safe, healthy food products from the farm to consumers in the marketplace.
NIST is cooperating with the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration's Special American Business Internship Training (SABIT) program to provide extensive standards training for 18 food processing and packaging experts from government and private-sector organizations in Russia and nine NIS republics of the former Soviet Union. QPS International, Chevy Chase, Md., is assisting NIST in identifying company hosts.
The SABIT program was established by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1990 to provide comprehensive training for qualified engineers, administrators, and technical and regulatory experts from the NIS. The overall goal is to improve product standards and quality control in Russia and the NIS while at the same time boosting U.S. trade with the region.
The standards training program is designed to familiarize Russian and NIS officials with U.S. government and private-sector processes and procedures for standards development, conformity assessment and quality management, thereby helping their countries to produce high-quality goods.
The food processing training program started with a two-week orientation program at NIST with briefings by institute standards experts, researchers, federal regulatory officials and private-sector standards developers concerned with standards and regulations for food processing, inspection, distribution and packaging. After the orientation, the NIS group began a six-week tour of major U.S. food producers and processors in America's agricultural heartland. Site visits will be made to firms located in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North Dakota.
The program also includes briefings at federal testing laboratories and state departments of agriculture, including the NSF International, formerly the National Sanitation Foundation in Michigan. The NIS group will return to NIST on May 5, 1996, for wrap-up sessions at the conclusion of their training.
Under three SABIT programs, ITA has successfully trained more than 740 executives and scientists from the NIS, including 85 officials at 40 U.S. firms under its standards training program managed by NIST. It is estimated that SABIT programs have facilitated as much as $60 million worth of business between participating U.S. firms and their NIS interns' companies. SABIT provides funding to cover logistical expenses, medical insurance and interpreters.
NIST SABIT standards training manager Mary Saunders notes that NIST hosts each group of approximately 20 Russian and NIS experts for a two-week orientation, and works closely with ITA's SABIT program to tailor the entire eight weeks to specific interests of both U.S. and NIS participants. Saunders adds that two additional SABIT standards training programs are planned for 1996 focusing on the oil and gas industry and construction/infrastructure.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.