National Restaurant Association Calls for Re-evaluation of Food Safety System and Implementation of Needed Improvements at Congressional Hearing

Recent salmonella outbreak highlights need for a stronger approach

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The National Restaurant Association's Vice President of Health & Safety Regulatory Affairs, Dr. Donna Garren, today testified at a hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations regarding the Salmonella Saint Paul outbreak. Dr. Garren focused her testimony on specific improvements for key parts of the food safety system.

"Restaurants have taken the lead in ensuring food safety within the four walls of our restaurants," said Garren. "The National Restaurant Association and our members are making multi-billion-dollar investments in improving food safety and developing state-of-the-art food safety education programs. The ongoing salmonella outbreak has been long, costly, and frustrating for all concerned and highlights the need to re-evaluate our food safety system and implement needed improvements.

"We must look for ways for the government at all levels to collaborate more closely with industry experts during the course of an outbreak investigation. And we must establish stronger standards and practices that move us towards continuous improvement in produce safety," continued Garren. "Of particular concern is the complexity of the food distribution channels for fresh produce and the challenges presented when a finished product served to consumers, like salsa, contains a number of ingredients. This complexity presented challenges to the public health officials leading the efforts to resolve this outbreak in timely manner. In moving forward, we need a stronger approach. We need a truly farm-to-table approach. Supply-chain collaboration and coordination has taken on a new urgency and new focus."

Garren noted that the food supply chain has been transformed in the last few years and that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is facing new and broader demands precisely because the food supply chain is more complex and global. She told lawmakers the following specific improvements were needed to move food safety efforts forward:

*Adequate funding to ensure appropriate FDA staffing and expertise;
*Improved collaboration and communication between government and industry during the investigation of a complex outbreak;
*Communication and education strategies to effectively inform consumers in the event of an outbreak or recall;
* Stronger standards and practices for fresh produce;
* Additional tools needed: recall authority, traceability, improved epidemiological investigations, and private sector certification.

Garren is also a member of the board of directors of the Conference for Food Protection, which brings together representatives from the food industry, government, academia, and consumer organizations to identify and address emerging problems of food safety and formulate recommendations.

To view the complete testimony, go to:

Mike Donohue (202) 331-5902
Maureen Ryan (202) 331-5939



Name: Sue Hensley



Company: National Restaurant Association

Address: 1200 17th St., NW - 20036 Washington DC


Phone: +1 (202)-973-3677

Fax: +1 (202)-973-3961


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