I Never Thought I
Would Live to See the Day – Food Safety in the Age of Obama
of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
In 16 years of
litigating thousands of foodborne illness cases and taking over
$500,000,000 from food companies, I really may live to see the government "put
me out of business." Here are the talking points for today's
Food Safety Working Group Event. Now the only issues will be
financing and execution.
SAFETY WORKING GROUP: DELIVERING RESULTS
On March 14, 2009,
President Barack Obama announced the creation of a new Food Safety Working
Group to advise him on how to upgrade the U.S. food safety system. The
Working Group is recommending a new, public health-focused approach to food
safety based on three core principles: (1) prioritizing prevention; (2)
strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and (3) improving response and
recovery. To implement this approach, the Obama Administration is
announcing the following steps.
Salmonella bacteria cause over a million illnesses each year in the United
States – including fever, diarrhea, and even death. The CDC has found that
Salmonella is the most common bacterial cause of foodborne illness. For
more than a decade, experts have known that eggs are a leading cause of
Salmonella illnesses. Despite support from consumer advocates and the egg
industry, the Federal government has been unable to finalize basic rules on
egg safety to prevent contamination.
• Reducing Salmonella in
Eggs: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is issuing a final rule to
control Salmonella contamination of eggs during production. This rule is
estimated to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses associated with
consumption of raw or undercooked contaminated shell eggs by approximately
60%, or 79,000 illnesses every year, and will generate annual savings of
over $ 1 billion.
• Cutting Salmonella Risk
in Poultry Products: By the end of the year,the Food Safety and Inspection
Service (FSIS) will develop new standards to reduce the prevalence of
Salmonella in turkeys and poultry. The agency will also establish a
Salmonella verification program with the goal of having 90 percent of
poultry establishments meeting the new standards by the end of 2010.
• Reducing the Threat of
E. coli O157:H7: The bacterial strain called E. coli O157:H7 causes
diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever in approximately 70,000 Americans each
year. In an estimated one in 15 patients, complications arise potentially
resulting in intense pain, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and even
death. In recent years, this bacterium has caused outbreaks associated with
meat and spinach.
• Stepped Up Enforcement
in Beef Facilities: FSIS is issuing improved instructions to its workforce
on how to verify that establishments handling beef are acting to reduce the
presence of E. coli. Also, FSIS is increasing its sampling to find this
pathogen, focusing largely on the components that go into making ground
Contamination of Leafy Greens, Melons, and Tomatoes: By the end of the
month, FDA will issue commodity-specific draft guidance on preventive
controls that industry can implement to reduce the risk of microbial
contamination in the production and distribution of tomatoes, melons, and
leafy greens. These proposals will help the Federal government establish a
minimum standard for production across the country. Over the next two
years, FDA will seek public comment and work to require adoption of these
approaches through regulation.
Building a National
Traceback and Response System: A system that permits rapid traceback to the source
of foodborne illness will protect consumers and help industry recover
faster. Yet despite the dedicated efforts of food safety officials across
the country, our current capacity to traceback the sources of illness
suffers from serious limitations.
• Developing Industry
Product Tracing Systems: Within three months, FDA will issue draft guidance
on steps the food industry can take to establish product tracing systems
improving our national capacity for detecting the origins of foodborne
• Creating a Unified
Incident Command System: Within three months, Federal agencies will
implement a new incident command system to address outbreaks of foodborne
illness. This approach will link all relevant agencies, as well asstate and
local governments, more effectively to facilitate communication and
decision-making in an emergency.
• Strengthening the
Public Health Epidemiology Program: Within six to twelve months, FSIS will
improve collaboration with states by increasing the capacity of its
successful public health epidemiology liaison program to State Public
Health Departments through additional hires and expanded outreach.
• Updating Emergency
Operations Procedures: Within the next month, Federal food safety agencies
will ask State and local agencies to update their emergency operations
procedures to be consistent with the new “Guidelines for Foodborne Disease
Outbreak Response” soon to be issued by the Council to Improve Foodborne
Outbreak Response. Implementation of these guidelines will lead to quicker
response, better communication, and better coordination by all Federal,
State, and local agencies.
• Improving State
Capacity: The CDC will work with collaborating States to evaluate and
optimize best practices for aggressive and rapid outbreak investigation,
and will launch a new system to facilitate information-sharing and adoption
of best practices within 12 months.
• Using New Technologies
to Communicate Critical Food Safety Information by Creating an Improved
Individual Alert System: The federal government will enhance www.foodsafety.gov to better
communicate information to the public and include an improved individual
alert system allowing consumers to receive food safety information, such as
notification of recalls. Agencies will also use social media to expand
public communications. The first stage of this process will be completed in
of Federal Food Safety Responsibilities: Building a more effective safety
system requires federal agencies to improve management of their food safety
responsibilities and coordinate more effectively with each other.
• Strengthening Federal
Coordination to Address Cross-Cutting Problems: The Food Safety Working
Group will serve as a mechanism to break down stovepipes, address
cross-cutting issues and increase coordination of food safety activities
across the U.S. government. HHS and USDA will continue to serve as the
Working Group’s leadership, bringing information and experience from the
front lines of food safety to their sister agencies across the government.
The group will monitor the implementation of its recommendations, regularly
assess performance metrics, ensure that food safety policies are adequately
coordinated with efforts to safeguard the food supply from deliberate
tampering, and respond to new challenges.
Responsibilities and Improving Accountability: FDA is creating a new
position, Deputy Commissioner for Foods, to oversee and coordinate its
efforts on food, including food safety. This position, reporting to the
Commissioner, will be empowered to restructure and revitalize FDA’s
activities and work with FSIS, and other agencies, in developing a new food
safety system. Within the next three months, USDA will create a new
position, Chief Medical Officer, at FSIS. This position will report to the
Under Secretary for Food Safety, and will enhance USDA’s commitment to
preventing foodborne illness.