F.D.A. moves forward in food protection plan

by FoodBusinessNews.net Staff
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration said it has made "significant progress" in protecting the nation’s food supply. The assessment comes one year after the implementation of its food protection plan, which is designed to product domestic and imported food from accidental and intentional contamination.

The plan has strategies for the prevention, intervention and response to food protection issues. Specific actions taken during the past year for prevention include the establishment of offices in five regions (China, India, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East) that export food to the United States; being a part of the Department of Health and Human Services delegation to China to address food safety issues and share ideas; the release of the CARVER self-assessment tool for the industry; and meeting with more than 200 federal, state, and local officials to address the challenges of protecting the food supply.

Other actions designed for intervention include the inspections of 5,930 high-risk domestic food establishments during fiscal year 2008 and piloting the program for inspection and sampling of high-risk companies in Denver and Minneapolis during the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

Actions aimed at response include working with industry and the public to identify best practices for tracing fresh produce throughout the supply chain; enhancing the ability to coordinate a comprehensive response to foodborne illness events; hiring two emergency/complaint-response coordinators to improve response; and signing cooperative agreements with six states to form a Rapid Response Team to establish an all-hazards response capability for food and foodborne illness response.

Yet not all in the industry believe these actions are enough.

"The nation lacks a real plan for food protection," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust For America’s Health. "The staff at the F.D.A. should be commended for moving forward with some key initiatives to improve food safety, but they can only achieve limited success without the resources and multi-year planning to fundamentally fix the food safety system. America’s food safety system has not been seriously upgraded in more than 100 years and too many Americans get sick each year from preventable foodborne illnesses."

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