ASQ Submits Written Statement on Food Safety to Congressional Subcommittee

MILWAUKEE — August 22, 2007 — The American Society for Quality (ASQ), the world’s leading association on quality, this week submitted a written statement for the record to a congressional subcommittee that is focusing on food quality and safety in the United States.

The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the Committee on Energy and Commerce recently held hearings entitled Diminished Capacity: Can the FDA Assure the Safety and Security of the Nations Food Supply? ASQ submitted a statement in order to offer perspectives from quality assurance professionals that it believes will be useful to the Subcommittee, to the FDA and to the food processing industry.

ASQ is indebted to the Subcommittee for providing us the opportunity to submit suggestions and thoughts on how to drastically increase the safety of Americas food supply, said Paul Borawski, ASQ executive director and chief strategic officer. Congress and the FDA should be wary of the drumbeat calling for more inspection, as this represents a simplistic solution to a complex situation and an expensive approach that cannot work.

Now that the food safety hearings are complete, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committees Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will work with Congress to review input from all parties. Testimony and other written statements will be considered by Congress in drafting potential food quality legislation.

According to ASQs written statement of record, the Subcommittee should focus on several other areas in its assessment of the FDAs ability to ensure safe food:

  • System and process focus. Todays food safety challenges demand less focus on end-item testing and more push onto the process and as far back into the supply chain as possible.
  • Supply Chain Management. Although much of the existing inspection effort has been concentrated at particular points close to the ends of the food chain, specifically at import and processors, a focus on innovative methods of evaluating the hand-offs further down the chain may yield better food safety results.
  • Joint Agency Activities. As these Subcommittee hearings have pointed out, federal food safety oversight is a fragmented undertaking, with multiple agencies playing a role. Joint agency activities in complementary fields would permit more thorough oversight with existing resources.
  • Government/Industry Partnerships. There will never be enough inspectors no matter what the design ends up being. What is also necessary is for the agencies to focus on the weak areas.
  • International Data System for Traceability. Food safety professionals are talking more and more about the extreme need to share data internationally in order to have true traceability.
  • Carbon Monoxide Process. Although seafood has always been labeled to indicate CO treatment, this is not the case in meat and poultry. ASQ supports the concept of labeling to identify foods that have been treated with carbon monoxide.
  • Implement recommendations of IOM. The Institute of Medicines 2003 report, Scientific Criteria to Ensure Safe Food, made numerous recommendations that would strengthen the food chain and reduce the incidence of foodborne illness. Congress and the FDA should take steps to implement these recommendations.
  • Congressional and HHS support and funding of FDA proposals. In recent years certain FDA programs and legislative proposals that demonstrated innovative approaches to the agencys food safety challenges have died due to either lack of funding or congressional or administration inaction. These prevention-oriented initiatives should be supported and funded by Congress. Funding should also promote better use of existing fee-for-service programs that strengthen buyer-supplier relationships and ease taxpayer burden.

To view ASQs statement, visit the Advocacy Room of ASQs Web site at http://www.asq.org/advocacy/issues-actions/activities-topic.html. ASQ also discussed specific issues surrounding food safety in its most recent Quarterly Quality Report, titled Food Safety: A Quality Management Systems Approach, which can be found at http://www.asq.org/quality-report/index.html.

The American Society for Quality, www.asq.org, has been the worlds leading authority on quality for more than 60 years. With more than 93,000 individual and organizational members, the professional association advances learning, quality improvement and knowledge exchange to improve business results, and to create better workplaces and communities worldwide. As champion of the quality movement, ASQ offers technologies, concepts, tools and training to quality professionals, quality practitioners and everyday consumers, encouraging all to Make Good Great®. ASQ has been the sole administrator of the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award since 1991. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., ASQ is a founding partner of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a prominent quarterly economic indicator, and also produces the Quarterly Quality Report.

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