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Food safety metrics and partnerships are key, say US agencies

By Rory Harrington , 30-Jun-2010
Last updated on 30-Jun-2010 at 15:40 GMT

Federal bodies in the United States are to hold public meetings to outline new proposals on how to measure food safety, with one senior figure warning that if initiatives weren’t measured, they were not done.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be discussing their joint efforts to boost the nation’s food safety at two public meetings to be held next month in Chicago and Portland, Oregon.

As well as hearing from relevant groups on suggested initiatives to boost food safety, the agencies will be providing a progress report on efforts by President Obama’s working group to lay down measurements to gauge food safety.

The federal bodies will also discuss how these metrics could be used to measure success on its egg shell and broiler chicken safety schemes.

The agencies stressed the need for introducing measurements, with USDA deputy under secretary for food safety Jerold R. Mande saying: “What doesn't get measured doesn't get done.”

"Measuring progress in reducing the risk of foodborne illness is an important part of our food safety strategy. It's how we know what's working and helps us learn from experience," said FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor

Gulf seafood

In a separate move, authorities in the US have announced a new wide-ranging partnership between federal and state agencies aimed at ensuring the safety of Gulf Cost seafood in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a summit recently in New Orleans with state health officers and state fisheries directors from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to manage the introduction of a joint procedure for sampling and reopening state and federal waters.

As well as testing seafood in areas that are most likely to have been contaminated, the NOAA and FDA are monitoring fish caught just outside of closed areas. They are carrying out tests to ensure that the closed areas are large enough to prevent the harvest of contaminated fish. So far, fish flesh tested from outside the closure areas have tested well below any level of concern for oil-based contamination.

Authorities confirmed they are considering the re-opening of some areas in Louisiana and Florida.

“No single agency could adequately ensure the safety of seafood coming from the Gulf following this tragedy, but in working together, we can be sure that tainted waters are closed as appropriate, contaminated seafood is not allowed to make it to market, and that closed waters can be reopened to fishing as soon as is safe,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator, National Marine Fisheries Service.

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