New proposals represent
shift in food safety strategy, FDA
of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/New-proposals-represent-shift-in-food-safety-strategy-FDA
By Rory Harrington, 03-Aug-2009
The US Government has announced
further measures to curb the spread of food-borne diseases such as E.coli
just days after lawmakers approved the bill overhauling the country’s food
Proposals to expand E.coli testing of beef and draft guidance
aimed at “minimising or eliminating” contamination of leafy greens,
tomatoes and melons were highlighted on Friday by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The pair said “prevention and partnership” would guide their
respective departments’ efforts to boost food safety. Success of the
strategy would hinge on “working closely with growers, food processors
and consumers to achieve their goals”, they said in joint statement.
FDA commissioner Dr Margaret Hamburg hailed the significance of the
draft guidelines on the fruit and vegetables as a shift in strategy for the
US food safety system from reacting to events to one that is based on
preventing food-borne hazards.
The moves come in the wake of the House of Representatives passing a
bill to radically increase oversight of the US food industry.
E.coli testing expanded
The USDA confirmed plans to increase testing on certain “leftover”
cuts from steak and other meat in a bid to slash incidences of E.coli in
ground beef. Guidance will be issued to plant inspectors to begin
conducting routine sampling of the so-called bench trim for the potentially
deadly bug, the Food Safety
Inspection Service (FSIS) said.
The strategy also involves simplifying and shortening instructions
for inspections as the agency steps up its bid to combat E.coli. The
department said plant assessors will receive “streamlined, consolidated
instructions for inspection, sampling and other actions” to reduce E.coli
0157:H7 in beef and “provide a simplified procedure to find and
eliminate E.coli before it reaches consumers”.
“Making prevention a priority is critical to reducing food-borne
illness and one of the three food safety principles of President Obama’s
Food Safety Working Group.” said Vilsack.
Shift in strategy
Vilsack and Sebelius also praised new Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines to improve safety of leafy
greens, tomatoes and melons. The draft proposals, unveiled separately, are
aimed at the entire supply chain; from growers and packers through to
processors, transporters and retailers, said the FDA.
The agency said it is seeking comments on the proposals within 90
days, which it hopes will provide a framework for minimising the risk of
food-borne bacteria in the fruit and vegetables.
“These new food safety guidelines will facilitate the development of
enforceable food safety standards and ensure a safer supply of fresh food
for all Americans,” said FDA chief Hamburg. “The three
draft guidances are designed to help growers and others across the entire
supply chain minimize or eliminate contamination in leafy greens, tomatoes,
and melons that can cause foodborne illnesses.”
“We must set as our highest priority the creating of enforceable
standards for food safety that prevent the food Americans eat from ever