Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday the Administration’s Food Safety Working Group recommendations to better coordinate and modernize the country’s food safety system.
President Obama announced the formation of the working group in March. Co-chaired by Secretary Sebelius and Secretary Vilsack, the group was charged with presenting recommendations on how to upgrade U.S. food safety laws, coordinate food safety efforts throughout the government, and ensure laws are enforced. On May 13, the working group held a listening session with participation from states and localities, the food industry, consumer advocates, and other experts.
At yesterday’s briefing, the following recommendations were made:
- By the end of July, FDA will issue commodity-specific draft guidance on preventive controls the industry can implement to reduce the risk of microbial contamination in the production and distribution of tomatoes, melons, and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.
- Within three months, FDA will issue draft guidance on steps the food industry can take to establish product tracing systems to improve our national capacity for detecting the origins of foodborne illness.
- 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 as state and local governments, more effectively, facilitating communication and decision-making in an emergency.
- In July 2009, 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.
- In July 2009, FDA will create 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 the Food Safety Inspection Service and other agencies in developing a new food safety system.
Click here to see a full list of recommendations.
Source: United Fresh Produce Association