Food Safety

Food safety collaboration called for at all levels of government

April 30, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+

FDA shouldn't get all the blame

Recent salmonella outbreaks involving peanut butter and fresh produce underscore the need to repair gaps in state and local food safety programs and integrate them better with federal food safety efforts, according to a new report from the Department of Health Policy at The George Washington University (GWU) School of Public Health and Health Services. The report, Stronger Partnerships for Safer Food: An Agenda for Strengthening State and Local Roles in the Nation’s Food Safety System, was prepared with input from state and local officials including the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).

The report, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, calls for leadership by Congress and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to build an integrated national food safety system that effectively uses the best science and public resources to prevent foodborne illness.

“State and local agencies occupy the critical frontline in the nation’s food safety system,” said Michael R. Taylor, former FDA and USDA official, research professor of health policy at the GWU School of Public Health and Health Services and one of the report’s authors. “Food safety reform at the federal level will be incomplete and insufficient unless it strengthens state and local roles and builds true partnership across all levels of government.”

Although food products are regulated on the federal level by FDA and USDA, local and state health departments have long been the backbone of the nation’s food safety system, with primary responsibility for illness surveillance, response to outbreaks and regulation of food safety in restaurants, grocery stores and many food processing plants. At the local level alone, the report says, there are approximately 3,000 public health agencies involved in food safety. State-level departments of health and agriculture, as well as public health laboratories in most states, add to the complexity and fragmentation of the system, as does the important role of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which interacts with agencies at all levels.

“The report highlights how local health departments protect people every day by helping to keep their food supply safe, whether they purchase food in a restaurant or store,” said Robert M. Pestronk, executive director of NACCHO. “At the same time, the report reinforces the need for an effective partnership among, and a greater allocation of resources to, federal, state and local government agencies.”

In addition to outlining the current roles of federal, state and local agencies in protecting Americans against foodborne illness, the report makes detailed findings on the strengths and weaknesses in the current food safety system. For example, the authors note progress in how federal, state and local agencies collaborate to detect foodborne outbreaks, but also find that state and local agencies are hampered in their response to and prevention of outbreaks by: lack of focused federal.

The report also suggests the establishment of a network of regional, federally-funded foodborne outbreak response centers to ensure an integrated “systems” approach to investigations to prevent far-reaching foodborne illness outbreaks (such as this winter’s peanut butter outbreak or last summer’s pepper problems). Each center would be staffed with a multi-disciplinary team of federal, state, and local epidemiologists, environmental health officials, regulators and communications experts to mount an effective response to outbreaks and conduct follow-up investigations to inform future prevention efforts.

For more information, visit the Food Safety Research Consortium’s Web site.

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