FDA releases strategic plan in effort to modernize Food Safety

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fda-logoMore readily identifying food-safety hazards and influencing consumers to make healthier choices in their diet are among five strategic goals the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified under a plan that is intended to protect public health and modernize the country’s food-safety system.

The strategic plan is the brainchild of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).

The other goals identified in strategic plan include better controlling and preparing for hazards, developing technology to understand and evaluate data, and improving the agency’s ability to adapt to change and respond to emergencies.

As part of the strategic plan, CFSAN identified specific research outcomes, illustrating that its goals are concrete. For instance, some of the outcomes include more effectively detecting allergens and gluten in food, enhancing preventative controls for curtailing or eliminating Salmonella  and obtaining toxicological data on dietary supplements that raise concerns.

Sometimes, it is difficult for government to measure the effectiveness of its regulations. For instance, although nutritional information first appeared on food labels more than a century ago, the extent to which consumers rely on this information in making their eating decisions is unclear, observed CFSAN. In connection with its plan to influence consumer behavior, the agency identified such research outcomes as measuring the benefit of adhering to dietary guidelines and evaluating the health benefits that derive from changes in consumers’ diets.

CFSAN said the strategic plan is consistent with its goal of implementing a food-safety system that is focused on prevention of foodborne illness; it also aligns with the goals and strategies of FDA’s new Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

The preventative-based system reflects the intent of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. In spite of the far-reaching law, outbreaks of foodborne illness have continued to affect Americans. For instance, FDA is investigating an outbreak of Hepatitis A illnessesassociated with frozen berries sold at Costco markets.

The challenges of keeping food safe have been exacerbated by increasing reliance on a global food-supply chain. In the introduction to the strategic plan, CFSAN highlighted the challenge of ensuring the safety of imported foods given that food imports have doubled between 2002 and 2010. In 2011, the agency noted, 80% of seafood and half of fresh fruit eaten in the United States were imported.

Finally, among other observations made at the outset of the plan, CFSAN stated: “Further, ever-increasing consumer interest in dietary supplements poses special challenges for ensuring the safety of marketed products and their supply chain.”

Source: Food Product Design