lunes, 5 de abril de 2010

A “Watershed Moment” for Food Safety in USA.

Nearly 400 experts gathered in Washington DC to discuss the best tools for measuring progress on food safety.

The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was attended by leaders in science, public health, consumer advocacy, and the food industry.

Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, special assistant to the President for Justice and regulatory policy at the White House Domestic Policy Council, emphasized the importance of measuring the food safety burden in order to comply with the principles laid out in the President’s Food Safety Working Group, which are prioritizing prevention, strengthening surveillance and enforcement, and improving response recovery.

Deputy Undersecretary for food safety at USDA, Jerold Mande said: “The importance of this meeting can be described in one sentence: What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done”. “This is a watershed moment in food safety” he added, “These opportunities do not come often. But when they do, they significantly change our trajectory as businesses and regulators alike”

Mande also discussed the importance of the measuring progress and said how crucial is to know exact data (number of people getting sick, contaminants, implicated food, etc), before decisions are taken in this matters.

Challenges in estimating the burden of foodborne illness.

There are a great number of challenges that must be faced in order to estimate the total burden of foodborne illness, being one of the most importants that only a small fraction of illness are actually confirmed by laboratory testing and reported to public health agencies. This leads, for example, to problems in choosing which diseases must be put under routine surveillance.

CDC is currently updating its foodborne illness estimates, wich have remained the same since 1999: 76 millions illnesses, 325000 hospitalizations, and 5000 deaths annually.

CDC officials and experts are all cautioning, however, that whatever the new numbers are, they cannot be compared to the 1999 estimates to indicate a trend, as the methodologies and data sources are fundamentally different. Finally, they expect to release the new results within a year, although with limited resources and ongoing epidemiological investigations, the timing remains uncertain.


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