Food-safety revamp a must, urge CDC, FDA

Articles
April 15, 2009

Food-safety revamp a must, urge CDC, FDA

The same restlessness that’s sweeping the nation over food safety is also rustling the federal agencies charged with protecting us. A new FoodNet report led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to call for a revamp of the United States’ food-safety system—which long ago sufficed when people primarily grew, prepared and ate locally sourced edibles. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) chimed in for modernization, citing additional points in today’s global supply chain at which contaminants could enter and threaten Americans. The catalyst for these calls: a report, Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food – 10 States, United States, 2008, which appeared in the April 10 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. FoodNet is short for the FoodBorne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, which is a collaboration between CDC, FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and 10 states including Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, and parts of California, Colorado and New York. “We have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food-safety practices from the farm to the table,” said Robert Tauxe, MD, MPH, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. “The foodborne division at CDC is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated.”

The same restlessness that’s sweeping the nation over food safety is also rustling the federal agencies charged with protecting us.

A new FoodNet report led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to call for a revamp of the United States’ food-safety system—which long ago sufficed when people primarily grew, prepared and ate locally sourced edibles. 

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) chimed in for modernization, citing additional points in today’s global supply chain at which contaminants could enter and threaten Americans.

The catalyst for these calls: a report, Preliminary FoodNet Data on the Incidence of Infection with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food – 10 States, United States, 2008, which appeared in the April 10 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.   FoodNet is short for the FoodBorne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, which is a collaboration between CDC, FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and 10 states including Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, and parts of California, Colorado and New York.

“We have reached a plateau in the prevention of foodborne disease and there must be new efforts to develop and evaluate food-safety practices from the farm to the table,” said Robert Tauxe, MD, MPH, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases. “The foodborne division at CDC is planning to increase the capacity of several health departments so that outbreaks can be better detected and investigated.”

Findings from 2008 FoodNet data showed only nominal change in the incidence of foodborne illness over the prior three years. The specific diseases cited were campylobacter, cryptosporidium, listeria, shiga toxin-producing escherichia coli O157, salmonella, shigella, vibrio and yersinia.  Foodborne illness afflicts many Americans, as many as 76 million annually. These incidents lead to 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths each year, The New York Times reported, citing CDC figures.

With world population and food production and distribution needs mounting, the U.S. needs to take the lead in food safety. First and foremost is to restore confidence in Americans that their foods and beverages are safe. Second is to demonstrate to the world—through a variety of advanced scientific methods and actionable, responsive oversight—that food supplies can be protected. We feel at SupermarketGuru.com that the crowd in Washington today is more motivated, and will probably be more empowered, to do what’s right in their roles as guardians.