Report Recommends Changes to Food Safety System

Reengineering of food safety into single system is requested.

A report issued by the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Service says local and state health officials trying to prevent food illness outbreaks are stymied by scarce resources, weak leadership from the federal government and bureaucratic barriers. Michael Taylor, who authored the study and teaches at the school, says Congress needs to take responsibility for telling the government what its job is. The study urges Congress to invest at least $350 million over five years to bolster under-funded state and local agencies and ensure a basic level of food safety in each state.

The report says the bulk of food safety work is performed by about 3,000 local and state agencies, which handle everything from inspections of restaurants, food processing plants and grocery stores to detecting outbreaks and removing unsafe products from stores. The analysis describes a fractured collection of food safety professionals all trying to do the same thing but their efforts are hampered by weak coordination, poor communication, varying abilities, inconsistent methods and a lack of federal leadership.

Based on consultations with health experts, consumer groups and food executives nationwide, the report urges Congress to create a single cohesive food safety network composed of local, state and federal agencies and accountable to the secretary of health and human services. Joseph Corby, executive director of the Association of Food and Drug Officials says one food safety system is needed, not 50. To meet this goal Congress must reengineer the national system.

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