This guest post is by Jorge Hernandez, senior vice president, Food Safety and Quality Assurance at U.S. Foodservice. U.S. Foodservice delivers food and related products and services to more than 250,000 customers, including restaurants, hospitals, hotels, schools and governmental operations.
The year is ending on two very positive notes relative to food safety in America. First, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released new, more precise estimates about the impact of foodborne illnesses in America. The data is the most accurate ever thanks to better CDC research methods, and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the actual scope of the problem.
Second, Congress has passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which, for the first time in decades, updates the FDA’s oversight of the nation’s food supply. The legislation increases the frequency of FDA inspections and gives the agency the ability to issue a recall. Currently, the FDA must negotiate with companies when officials believe a recall is necessary. The act also increases the rate of food-processing plant inspections, boosts access to production and distribution records, and establishes a tracking system so if an outbreak does occur, the source of the contamination can be quickly located and contained. In addition, the legislation improves oversight of imported foods by requiring it to meet the same safety standards as food produced in the U.S.
While the act is an important step forward in further protecting America’s food supply, it exempts small food producers from some regulations and oversight. This could raise doubts about the integrity of some channels of the food supply chain. It is therefore critical that all food producers, large and small, continue working in good faith to adhere to the highest standards of food safety throughout the growing, processing, distribution, storage, handling and preparation phases. We must continue to work hard each day to earn the public’s trust and confidence.
This is an exciting time in the food industry and this new law is just the beginning. Regulatory agencies must now transform the legislation into meaningful, science-based regulations that can be implemented across all sectors of the food industry. But it’s encouraging to know the food served at family dinner tables and restaurants across America in 2011 will be safer than ever.
Stay tuned to Restaurant SmartBrief for updates on food safety legislation.