Food Safety: Romney and Obama Focus on Different Solutions

In Christine Groman’s recent Scientific American blog, she reported on the presidential candidates responses to the food safety question in a larger questionnaire. The question was:

Question #7. Food. Thanks to science and technology, the United States has the world’s most productive and diverse agricultural sector, yet many Americans are increasingly concerned about the health and safety of our food.  The use of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides, as well as animal diseases and even terrorism pose risks.  What steps would you take to ensure the health, safety and productivity of America’s food supply?

The Republican response not surprisingly tended to minimize government and regulatory role. One of the secrets to the success we have enjoyed in the food safety arena is that there has been a long term collaboration between public and private sectors to produce the substantial increase in food safety levels we have observed. FDA and GFSI both deserve kudos. We should strengthen the abilities of all not minimize any.

The Democratic response focused on the changes in bacterial infections as shown in the chart below.

foodbourne bacterial infections 2010

It would be great if the food safety community can leverage this questionnaire to bring greater awareness the status of food safety programs. These data should be emphasized in public discourse so the public can see where we have had success and where we need improvement.

Perhaps we can even get to the point of explaining that active process management programs in conjunction with HACCP based food safety programs are at the heart of the modern FSMS as defined in ISO 22000, the GFSI audit schema and the Food Safety Modernization Act. John Surak and I first demonstrated that linkage in a 1998 article Integrating HACCP and SPCwhich examined the role of an SPC based process management program in maintaining safe food production in a Butterball Turkey plant. As we said about those findings, food safety is ultimate justification of high capability manufacturing. 

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