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Report Slams U.S. Food Safety System

Recommendations to fix these problems include:

Start inspecting foods throughout the entire food production and processing chain.Enact procedures that will allow the inspection system to be updated as changes occur.Establish standard practices of authority for recall and penalties.Improve inspection of imported foods.Increase FDA funding to improve food safety.

Ultimately, Levi thinks a new federal agency should be responsible for all food safety.

"The goal should be to consolidate and align all federal food safety functions into a single agency, to increase effectiveness, responsibility and accountability," Levi said. "The agency could then address the food supply as a whole and set priorities accordingly."

"Some of the critique is right, but we differ with them on some of their recommendations," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of the consumer watchdog group, Food & Water Watch. "There is a little too much optimism in the report."

One of the problems is that the FDA has not been forthcoming on what it needs to improve food safety, Lovera said.

"The FDA keeps coming to Congress and saying they aren't able to assess what they need," she said. "They need to come up with a number about what it would take to improve oversight."

In addition, the FDA has so far refused to release data about the extent of its food safety inspections, which has caused Food & Water Watch to sue the agency, Lovera said.

In another criticism of the nation's food supply system, a report released Tuesday from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health questioned current animal-rearing practices.

The reportPutting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in Americacalls for limiting use of drugs in animals destined for the food supply. The report also criticizes large feeding lots that bring together tens of thousands of animals and releasing large quantities of animal waste that contaminate water supplies and spread disease.

The report calls for phasing out these troubling animal farming practices over the next 10 years. Some of these practices include crating pregnant sows to prevent them from turning around, which restricts them from nursing, small cages for egg-laying hens, and force-feeding geese and ducks.

More information

For more about food safety, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

SOURCES: April 30, 2008, teleconference with Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director, Trust for America's Health; Patty Lovera, assistant director, Food & Water Watch, Washington, D.C.;Fixing Food Safety: Protecting America's Food From Farm-to-Fork;Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America


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