Food Safety

Extreme HHS makeover

April 3, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

We need a Food Safety Administration within HHS

The US Department of Health and Human Services needs a makeover, says a report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The report, Keeping America’s Food Safe: A Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System at the US Department of Health and Human Services, examines problems with the fragmented and antiquated current system and proposes ways to improve the food safety functions at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The report calls for the immediate consolidation of food safety leadership within FDA, and ultimately the creation of a separate Food Safety Administration within HHS. Currently, no FDA full-time food safety official has line authority over all food safety functions, says the report. A speedy effort by the Obama administration to consolidate leadership within FDA, followed by Congressional action to create a separate Food Safety Administration, would ensure immediate progress on food safety and create a platform for long-term success in reducing foodborne illness, the report stated.

“Food safety needs to be a priority on the prevention menu,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “We shouldn’t have to worry about our children getting sick from their school lunch or from a family meal at a restaurant. And we shouldn’t have to wait until people become sick to learn about food safety problems. We need modern, comprehensive ways of preventing and detecting problems before food gets to the table.”

Approximately 80% of the food supply-including millions of food producers, processors, transporters, storage facilities, grocery stores and restaurants- is regulated by FDA. The vast majority of known foodborne illnesses are associated with these products, says the report. Some recent problems include the 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanut butter and peanut butter products; potential imports of the 2008 melamine-contaminated infant formula and related diary products in China; the 2008 salmonella outbreak in peppers; and a 2008 salmonella outbreak from imported cantaloupes.

“FDA certainly needs a modern food safety law and more resources, but to make good use of these tools, HHS needs a unified and elevated management structure for food safety that can implement a science- and risk-based food safety program dedicated to preventing foodborne illness,” said Michael R. Taylor, JD, research professor of health policy at the School of Public Health at The George Washington University. “Major organizational change requires careful planning and implementation and should not be rushed, but the time is ripe for building sustainable solutions to the problems in our nation’s food safety system,” he added. Taylor is the former deputy commissioner for policy at FDA and former administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the US Department of Agriculture.

The report recommends:

  • Increasing and aligning resources with the highest-risk threats;
  • Modernizing the mandate and legal authority of the HHS Secretary to prevent illness, which would include enforcing the duty of food companies to implement modern preventive controls and meet government-established food safety performance standards;
  • Immediately establishing a deputy commissioner at FDA with line authority over all food safety programs, including the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the food functions of the Office of Regulatory Affairs, as an interim step toward creating a Food Safety Administration; and
  • Working through Congress toward the creation of a Food Safety Administration within HHS, strategically aligning and elevating the food safety functions currently housed at FDA and better coordinating regulation policies and practices with the surveillance and detection of outbreak functions at CDC and with food safety agencies at the state and local level.
The report was supported by a grant from RWJF and is available on TFAH’s Web site at www.healthyamericans.org.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Food Engineering Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

Fabulous Food Plant: Paramount Citrus

Learn more about this fabulous food plant in Food Engineering's article, found here.

Podcasts

Burns & McDonnell project manager RJ Hope and senior project engineer Justin Hamilton discuss the distinctions between Food Safety and Food Defense as well as the implications for food manufacturers of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
More Podcasts

THE MAGAZINE

Food Engineering Magazine

Food engineering magazine 2014 april cover

2014 April

Catch a preview of the Powder and Bulk Show in this April 2014 edition of Food Engineering. Also, be sure to check out a coffee stick making a real stir and a major advancement in the the pet food industry.
Table Of Contents Subscribe

THE FOOD ENGINEERING STORE

Food-Authentication-Flyer-(.gif
Food Authentication Using Bioorganic Molecules

This text provides critical tools and data needed to augment routine food analysis and enhance food safety by aiding in the detection of counterfeit, and potentially deleterious, foods.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.

Food Master

Food Master Cover 2014Food Master 2014 is now available!

 

Where the buying process begins in the food and beverage manufacturing market. 

Visit www.foodmaster.com to learn more.

STAY CONNECTED

FE recent tweets

facebook_40.pngtwitter_40px.pngyoutube_40px.pnglinkedin_40px.png