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U.S. Food Safety: Solutions at a Glance
Date:1/16/2008

owed how tough it can be to track the origins of a particular imported food or food ingredient. Experts have testified that systems of traceability are needed to track from the farm level to the retail sector. That includes "country of origin" labeling on food, so consumers could make informed decisions as to which products they might want to avoid when outbreaks occur.
  • Investing in training and technology. Even if additional funding for the FDA were to materialize, trained food technologists are in woefully short supply, according to experts. Such technologists might be a part of FDA inspection teams, and newer technologies could also get more product inspected more quickly.
  • Back in March, the FDA came up with "non-binding" guidelines for food processors to try to reduce instances of food poisoning in fresh produce. This was the first time any such suggestions had been made for the produce industry.

    Others think the food industry can create its own solutions.

    "I think things have changed now and... companies are willing to talk about mandatory guidelines," said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union.

    The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents the nation's top food producers, unveiled in September a "four pillars" plan to increase government oversight -- but of imports rather than domestically produced food.

    The new strategy is also meant to take "a bit of the burden off of the FDA," said Jenny Scott, vice president of food safety programs at GMA.

    According to Scott, the four pillars include:

    • a mandatory paper trail for importers that ensures that anyone supplying a U.S. company puts in place programs that assure their products meet U.S. safety standards;
    • giving countries and foreign firms with good safety records expedited clearance through inspections, thereby allowing the FDA to focus on products that present
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