Where's the (Infected) Beef?

Source of Article:  http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2009/07/tracingtech_and_social_media.php

 

 

The administration on Tuesday announced long-desired steps that agencies will take to help repair the beleaguered food safety system, including the creation of a nationwide trace-back system to more quickly identify the food-source of an outbreak.

The new executive branch actions are a response to a spate of food safety scares that have occurred since 2006, including the nation's biggest recall of beef and one of the biggest recalls in history, involving peanut products. Lawmakers and consumer advocacy groups had been calling for a national trace-back system for years.

"Multiple federal, state, and local agencies all play essential roles in managing outbreaks but lack a unified structure or adequate provisions for sharing data in an emergency. These limitations make it essential for federal agencies to improve the traceability of food and the response to outbreaks of foodborne illness," state the findings of a food safety working group that President Obama convened in March. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack co-chair the group, since HHS and USDA oversee different parts of the food supply.

The group has called for FDA, within three months, to issue draft guidance for the food industry on steps companies can take to establish product tracing systems. Within that same time frame, federal agencies will create a new incident command system that will link all relevant agencies, plus state and local governments, to tackle outbreaks of foodborne illness. The idea is that this communications network would harmonize information sharing. Today, 15 separate federal agencies handle food safety.

In addition, social media will continue to be a tool that the government uses, in the event of an outbreak, for communicating with citizens. An improved, personal alert system will be made available on a future upgrade of foodsafety.gov to allow consumers to subscribe to recall notifications. The first stage of the process will be complete within 90 days, according to today's announcement.

 

 

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