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Wanted: Integrated National Food Safety System

April 27, 2009
The recent Salmonella outbreaks underscore the need to repair gaps in U.S. food safety efforts, health organizations said.

A new report says the recent Salmonella outbreaks involving peanut butter and fresh produce underscore the need to repair gaps in U.S. state and local food safety programs and integrate them better with federal food safety efforts. The report - “Stronger Partnerships for Safer Food: An Agenda for Strengthening State and Local Roles in the Nation’s Food Safety System” - was produced by the Department of Health Policy at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington, D.C., in partnership with a number of organizations that represent state and local food safety officials and practitioners.
“State and local agencies occupy the critical frontline in the nation’s food safety system,” said Michael R. Taylor, a research professor of health policy at the university’s School of Public Health and Health Services, a former FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture official, 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 the report’s authors noted that federal, state and local agencies have made progress in collaborating to detect foodborne outbreaks, they said the lack of focused leadership to build an integrated system - combined with chronic underfunding, wide disparities in capacity and more - hamper state and local agencies’ response to and prevention of outbreaks.
In addition to outlining the current roles of federal, state and local agencies in protecting Americans against foodborne illnesses, the report provides 27 findings related to the strengths and weaknesses in the current food safety system - and makes 19 specific recommendations for strengthening state and local roles and building an integrated, effective national food safety system. To read the full report, visit http://thefsrc.org.