Robert Tauxe: Progress in the Fight for Food Safety
Source of Article: http://health.usnews.com/articles/health/living-well-usn/2009/02/23/robert-tauxe-progress-in-the-fight-for-food-safety.html
In the midst of a massive salmonella outbreak, U.S. News speaks with a CDC food safety expert
By Nancy Shute
Posted February 23, 2009
The salmonella outbreak in peanut butter that has killed nine people and sickened more than 600 has earned the dubious distinction of being the biggest foodborne outbreak in American history, and it's still ongoing. U.S. News talked with Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Division of Foodborne, Bacterial, and Mycotic Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about why this outbreak is raising such loud alarms. Edited excerpts:
As one of the nation's top
epidemiologists, you've investigated many outbreaks. Why is this one
We're seeing more nationwide outbreaks now, including recent
problems with spinach, salsa, even dry breakfast
cereal. What's causing this?
It seems as if it took the CDC a long time to finger the
culprit in this outbreak, which started back in the fall. The CDC didn't start
gathering data until January 3.
HACCP was embraced by the meat industry in the wake of a very large outbreak of E. coli infections in ground beef in 1993. The end result is that the contamination of ground beef has really dropped. What we've learned is that a much broader sector of the food supply is of concern than just poultry and raw shellfish and milk and eggs. Now there are real concerns about how to make produce safe, how to make processed foods more safe.
Can we do that, given our vast food production system?
The other thing is that it takes regulatory attention. It's pretty hard to introduce a whole new approach like HACCP, or enforce an approach like good agricultural practices on farms, if there aren't enough inspectors.
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