White House takes food safety online

Source of Article:  http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/05/white_house_takes_food_safety.html

by Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

Thursday May 21, 2009, 12:18 PM

The White House has just taken its concern about food safety to the Internet, setting up a Web site to keep consumers informed and let them weigh in as officials debate what changes are needed.

The sleek, new site, www.foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov, provides information on the latest activities of food safety group set up by the administration.

The group, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, will come up with recommendations for President Obama on ways to improve food safety.

At a working group session last week, Vilsack said the country needs to have a consistent approach to food safety, which now relies on a fractured system made up of myriad federal, state and local agencies.

He also stressed the importance of having a robust system for detecting outbreaks and reacting to them.

Critics say that more emphasis should be placed on preventing outbreaks in the first place, for example by requiring food producers and processors to enact uniform sanitation and prevention practices.

Congress is considering several proposals to bolster food safety, including one bill which would split the Food and Drug Administration and create a separate agency responsible for food.

While the debate is under way, the public can weigh in through links on the Web site. It provides an online form and welcomes comments through the White House's Facebook page and via Twitter. Consumers can also sign up for email updates.

America's food safety system may still date to the turn of the 20th century, but the debate is taking place on a state-of-the-art platform.



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