Expert Advice for Updating America's Food Safety System

About 76 million Americans suffer a foodborne illness annually, and these illnesses cause an estimated 325,000 annual hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, according to "Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food Supply from Farm-to-Fork" This April 2008 report from Trust for America's Health also said medical costs and lost productivity associated with foodborne illnesses amount to $44 billion per year.

The report recommended a stronger FDA with more funding for prevention and oversight of imported foods. The current system's focus on "outdated, limited end-product and processing plant inspections" should give way to a system focused on preventing illness outbreaks throughout the food supply system, with prevention strategies such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) being at the center of the U.S. food safety approach, it said.

"Our goal should be reducing the number of Americans who get sick from foodborne illness," TFAH Executive Director Jeff Levi, Ph.D., said when the report was issued. "But we can't adequately protect people from contaminated foods if we continue to use 100-year-old practices. We need to bring food safety into the 21st Century. We have the technology. We're way past due for a smart and strategic upgrade."

To read the full report, visit this site.

This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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