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FDA Touts Efforts to Enhance Food Safety
Date:12/1/2008

Critics see problems with the agency's goals, commitment and resources

MONDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Responding to criticism that it has done a poor job safeguarding the nation's food supply, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report Monday detailing its efforts to protect consumers.

Among the most important changes in 2008 was the agency's initiative to build better relationships with state and local health departments to protect the food supply, said Dr. David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection at the FDA.

"Another big success is the strategic change we are making with regard to imports. What you could call the 'globalization of FDA,' which is shifting our emphasis on inspection on the port of entry only to more of a product-lifecycle approach," Acheson said. "We are focused on building the systems to better understand what's going on in foreign manufacturing."

U.S. consumers have been bombarded during the past two years with a series of worrisome headlines, ranging from milk products, blood-thinning medication and pet foods contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine imported from China; to jalapeno peppers from Mexico bearing the salmonella bacteria; to U.S.-produced spinach poisoned with the E. coli bacteria.

The new report updates progress made since the FDA unveiled its Food Protection Plan in 2007. Titled Food Protection Plan: One-Year Progress Summary, the document cites improvements in three areas: prevention of outbreaks of food-borne disease; intervention; and response to outbreaks. Some of the accomplishments include:

Prevention:

  • The agency said it's in the process of opening five offices around the world, to be staffed with its own inspectors, in China, India, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
  • The FDA participated in meetings in China to discuss food-safety issues in both countries
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