Major food safety changes called for in report

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — Trust for America’s Health (T.F.A.H.), an arm of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has issued a report "Fixing food safety: Protecting America’s food from farm-to-fork" that identifies gaps in the U.S. food safety system, including out-of-date laws, misallocation of resources and inconsistencies among food safety agencies.

"Our goal should be reducing the number of Americans who get sick from food-borne illness," said Dr. Jeff Levi, executive director of the T.F.A.H. "We need to bring food safety into the 21st century. We have the technology. We’re way past due for a smart, strategic upgrade."

Food safety problems identified in the report include the use of government resources for carcass-by-carcass inspection in the meat and poultry industry; a lack of resources for addressing modern pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli; staffing shortages at the Food and Drug Administration; and a fragmented food safety regulatory structure within the U.S. government; and limited inspection of imported foods.

Recommendations made by the group focus on repealing federal end-product and processing plant inspection mandates and shifting inspection practices to prevention; the creation of uniform performance standards that are enforceable through product detention, recall authority and civil penalties; improvement in the monitoring of foreign imports; and strengthening the F.D.A. with increased funding, aligning resources with high risk threats and having the long-term goal of realigning all federal food safety functions.

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