Report: FDA Needs More Efficient Approach To Food Safety

FDA’s abilities to discover potential threats to food safety and prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness are hampered by impediments to efficient use of its limited resources, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.

To more proactively tackle food safety problems, FDA should implement a risk-based approach in which data and expertise are marshaled to pinpoint where along the production, distribution, and handling chains there is the greatest potential for contamination and other problems, the report says. The agency would then be able to direct appropriate amounts of its resources and attention to those high-risk areas and increase the chances of catching problems before they turn into widespread outbreaks, said the committee that wrote the report.

The report offers FDA a blueprint for developing a risk-based model. It also outlines several organizational steps the agency should take to improve the efficiency of its many food safety activities, such as increasing coordination with state and other federal agencies that share responsibility for protecting the nation’s food supply. In addition, the report says Congress should consider amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to explicitly provide the authority FDA needs to fulfill its food safety mission.

“As recent illnesses traced to produce underscore, foodborne diseases cause significant suffering, so it’s imperative that our food safety system functions effectively at all levels,” said committee chair Robert Wallace, professor, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City. “FDA uses some risk assessment and management tactics, but the agency’s approach is too often reactive and lacks a systematic focus on prevention. Our report’s recommendations aim to help FDA achieve a comprehensive vision for proactively protecting against threats to the nation’s food supply.”

FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of approximately 80% of the nation’s food supply, including seafood, dairy products, and fruits, and vegetables. Although it is not the sole organization overseeing food safety — USDA handles meat, poultry, and egg products, and state and local agencies share in conducting food production facility inspections, surveillance, and investigations of outbreaks — recent outbreaks of foodborne illness led to a congressional request for a review of gaps in FDA’s food safety system.

The agency has been criticized for not adequately monitoring and inspecting food suppliers and distributors and for not taking a proactive approach to food safety overall. However, given that FDA is responsible for more than 150,000 food facilities, more than 1 million restaurants and other retail food establishments, and more than 2 million farms, as well as millions of tons of imports, it lacks the resources to sufficiently monitor the entire food supply, the committee noted.

A risk-based approach would give FDA’s food safety officials the strategic vision needed to evaluate and plan for food safety concerns rather than tackling problems on a case-by-case basis, the report says. Without good information, agency officials cannot identify where its resources are needed most or determine which policy interventions are most effective. The agency should identify its data needs and review its policies for sharing data with other agencies and organizations.

The federal government should establish a centralized food safety data center outside of the regulatory agencies to collect information and conduct rapid, sophisticated assessments of food safety risks and appropriate policy interventions. This center would go a long way toward developing much-needed capacity and would reduce interagency competition for resources, the committee said. It could also serve as an intermediate step toward consolidating food safety activities within a single agency, which many individuals and organizations have called for.

To enhance its efficiency, FDA should explore alternative approaches to regulating food safety, such as delegating food facility inspections to the states, the report says. FDA should establish national standards for the intensity and frequency of these facility reviews and help states and local municipalities bring their safety programs up to those standards. Once all programs are standardized, FDA should train and certify state inspectors with the goal of turning over the majority of inspections to them under the agency’s supervision. This change would build on current practices in which roughly 60% of inspections are already conducted by state inspectors under contract with FDA. This integration and leveraging of resources would increase the quality of inspections and eliminate duplication of effort, the committee said.

Despite the dramatic developments in food production and distribution that have occurred over the years, the main statutory provisions under which FDA carries out its food safety responsibilities remain largely unchanged. Although various provisions give the agency broad discretion and flexibility through which it has been able to control potential problems, there are instances in which FDA lacks specific authority, which can make its actions vulnerable to court challenge. Congress should examine how the legislation could be revised to detail FDA’s authorities in facility registration, preventive controls, risk-based inspection, mandatory recall, reporting of adulteration, and banning of food imports if the public’s health is at risk, among other areas.

The report was requested by Congress and sponsored by USDA. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.

Copies of Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration are available from the National Academies Press by calling 202-334-3313 or 800-624-6242 or by going to www.nap.edu.

Source: Institute of Medicine and National Research Council news release

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush Blueberries
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in Their Sights
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Florida citrus grove
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Positive Results
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry Are Closer than You Think
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
iphone close-up
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on the Go
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
FFVA Emerging Leader Development Program Class 6 Farm Tour
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for GenNext Growers
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More
Grower Achievement Award
February 24, 2017
Know a Vegetable Grower Who’s Innovative and Stands Above the Rest?
Then nomination him or her for American Vegetable Grower magazine’s 2017 Grower Achievement Award. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 24, 2017
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Solid Foundation in Your Orchard
Trellising study helps growers understand the basics of setting up an orchard infrastructure properly. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry Production
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
The Latest
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Pos…
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry A…
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on t…
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for Gen…
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More
Grower Achievement Award
February 24, 2017
Know a Vegetable Grower Who’s Innovative…
Then nomination him or her for American Vegetable Grower magazine’s 2017 Grower Achievement Award. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 24, 2017
Don’t Underestimate the Importance…
Trellising study helps growers understand the basics of setting up an orchard infrastructure properly. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry P…
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
Fruits
February 23, 2017
First California Ag Innovation Showcase …
University of California, Davis will be the setting for a ground-breaking conference on emerging technology for food and high-value agriculture. Read More
Disease Control
February 23, 2017
Spot Sclerotinia Before It Stops Your Ve…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this malady that goes by many names. Read More
Berries
February 22, 2017
Florida Strawberry Picking Contest a Big…
Fourth-annual fundraising event brings in more than $100,000 to benefit children of local farmworkers. Read More
Citrus
February 22, 2017
New Insecticide Available to Combat Suck…
Minecto Pro from Syngenta has received EPA approval for use in specialty and vegetable crops to control lepidopteran and other pests. Read More
Farm Management
February 22, 2017
Farms Get Bigger Even as the Number of F…
A new report from USDA shows long-term trends continuing: fewer farms and fewer acres used in farming even as individual operations get bigger on average. Read More
Farm Management
February 22, 2017
Wild Bee Populations Are out of Sync wit…
Some crops most dependent on pollinators, including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries, appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch. Read More
Citrus
February 22, 2017
Skilled Labor Needed to Keep Agriculture…
Even with the challenge of feeding a growing global population at hand, has focus been lost on recruiting where jobs on the farm are need most? Read More
Varieties & Rootstocks
February 22, 2017
Citrus Nurseries Analyze the Need for Se…
It seems many growers are more certain about their scion choices than they are about available rootstocks. Read More