U.S. food safety annual report recommended

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The Produce Safety Project (P.S.P.), an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, has issued a report recommending the publication of an annual report that tracks foodborne pathogens in humans, animals and feed. The report would be a joint project between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and analyze surveillance data on human foodborne illness and pathogen contamination in domestic and imported animals, food and feed.

“A national annual report on food safety will actually tell us if we are making progress or not in reducing the burden of foodborne illness,” said Jim O’Hara, director of the P.S.P. “It is a yardstick we don’t have now.”
The P.S.P. report is based on research and interviews with food safety authorities in member countries of the European Union, particularly Denmark, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom where reforms have focused on improving the science base and risk assessment of food-safety efforts.

The analysis also would present trends and provide the evidence basis for measuring food safety progress and include routinely updated national estimates of the incidence of foodborne illness due to major pathogens.

“Not only will an analysis give us a consolidated examination of the current state of affairs throughout the country, it will also require our food safety agencies to gather, organize and analyze data in a consistent and timely manner,” said Michael Batz, head of Food Safety Programs, Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and co-author of the report.

The P.S.P. report also outlines specific steps that may be taken to improve food safety data collection and research. The recommendations include:

• Revamping farm-to-table surveillance of domestic and imported food by developing a national surveillance plan and expanding collection of data on contamination of foods.

• Increasing the capacity for integrated food safety analysis by developing cross-agency strategies for priority setting and attributing the burden of specific foods to overall foodborne illness.

• Better coordination of food safety research by publishing annually updated lists of prioritized research needs and increasing the role of regulators in research program priorities.

• Ensuring transparency and public participation in the process.

• Improving effectiveness of trace-back and trace-forward data for outbreak response by expanding traceability requirements along food chain. Standardizing record-keeping and creating incentives or requirements for electronic information tracking will further help gather this data.

Copies of the report are available at www.producesafetyproject.org.
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