Food Contamination Incidents Likely to Increase (Part 3)

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This is the conclusion of an interview with Dr. Sanford Miller, a senior fellow at the University of Maryland Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy, as well as former director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.


What should we be doing from a policy perspective to improve the situation?

Dr. Miller: There are several issues that must be resolved. First, we need to assure that the FDA and other regulatory agencies have the resources sufficient to perform the job.

Second, we need to give the agencies the authority they need to take action to assure that the rules are being enforced. This includes inspection authority, mandatory recall and so on.

Third, we must seriously, once and for all, bite the bullet and move toward a single food-safety agency. I only hope that it doesn’t require an event as catastrophic as the World Trade Center to force this action, as it did for the formation of the Department of Homeland Security. It can be done. Consider, for example, the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, with programs moved from several agencies.

What does the future hold for the safety of our food supply?

Dr. Miller: Even though we have problems with the food supply, we still have one of the safest food supplies in the world. This is due to the dedication and high degree of competence of the people at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the FDA and other responsible agencies.

Nevertheless, we can and must do better. Providing the resources and authority—and organizing a single agency for food safety—are important steps.

We also must keep in mind that the responsibility for food safety is not restricted to government. The industry and the consumer have equal responsibility. All three must work together to accomplish this goal of safe food.

Finally, we must prevent the politicization of the food-safety process. Science must be the basis for regulatory action. Unfortunately, there appears to be a dangerous trend to attempt to prostitute the science to meet political goals.

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