Politics and Food Safety
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Politics and Food Safety

The White House and President Obama's Food Safety Working Group may be the catalyst to a new era of consumer food safety.

The White House and President Obama's Food Safety Working Group , claim that they are making progress but more work is needed to reach their goal to ensure food safety.

Obama's Food Safety Working Group (FSWG) was launched after the deadly Salmonella peanut butter outbreak in late 2008, early 2009. On Wednesday, December 21, 2011, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) with Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released their progress report to the press, highlighting the areas of the food safety initiative that they were currently working on. At a White House press conference, Secretary Vilsack made this statement: "As families across the country share in this holiday season, it is important to reiterate our commitment to protecting the food supply and our desire to remain vigilant to protect the American people. We have taken a number of steps to improve the safety of America's meat and poultry supply in recent years and the President's Food Safety Working Group has proven to be a vital component to our work."

Recent Successes

The press conference pointed to a number of recent successes

  • The Egg Safety Rule were implemented by the FDA in 2010
  • The Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell University was established to develop educational and training materials for farmers and other food product producers.
  • The agency set new Salmonella standards for poultry establishments, which may prevent as many as 25,000 foodborne illnesses annually.
  • The Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) announced a new FSIS zero tolerance policy to be launched in March 2012 for six additional strains of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).
  • A "test and hold" policy that requires facilities to hold product until microbiological testing can determine if it is safe to release into commerce will also be initiated in early 2012.
  • The USDA estimates that these new policies had they been in effect would have prevented 44 Class I recalls since 2007.

Consumer Groups Praise the Progress

Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest said that, "The litany of new acronyms for the task forces and inter-agency consultations that are described in the Obama Administration's new Progress Report on Food Safety is worthy of a good spy novel: from SIP to CORE; from ICAT to CalciNet. It shows both the high level of attention that the Administration has paid to addressing food safety and the challenge when numerous federal and state agencies must work together during outbreaks and other critical food events. The report documents important improvements that have been made in the food safety system, especially with the adoption and implementation of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. However, with so many agencies involved, lapses can easily occur in the absence of strong leadership. It is promising to see the continuation of the Food Safety Working Group, which was established by President Obama early in his administration."

A new era in food safety

Will President Obama's Food Safety Working Group be the catalyst that issues in a new year of increasing food safety? Only time will tell.

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Comments (6)

To be honest as long as companies like Monsanto are allowed to control the government (as I beleive they do to some extent) the American people should distrust food safety regulations.

Really a commendable work by the US government in food safety and thanks for sharing it.

Ranked #29 in Food Safety

I agree with Brenda. No amount of food safety works will help as long as we're fed genetically modified food fertilized artificially with only three nutrients out of dozens or more we need. Things like raw milk, fresh eggs and meat and vegetables grown at home are under attack. I have no accolades for the government when it comes to food safety. It's all politics.

Canada, Japan, and many European countries are noted for having higher standards in regards to food quality. I remember my husband when he came to Canada, he wanted one of his favorite American treats, I think it was Chex Mix but could be wrong - anyhow he could not find it in any store in Canada so asked and was told it was not up to par with Canadian food safety laws so could not be imported. I know the pet food industry in the USA has low standards, with the same thing, some pet foods that are common in the USA cannot be exported to Canada, and even fewer to Japan or Europe, because of standards.

Ranked #12 in Food Safety

Very informative well written article to know.

Ranked #4 in Food Safety

This country definitely needs some improvement in this area.

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