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From: The eUpdate, 1.11.11

HHS Makes Food Safety Focus of Disease Prevention Efforts

Government’s goals attainable with specific data, expert says

The government’s six main objectives for food safety for the next decade, recently unveiled as part of the Healthy People 2020 initiative, are all “reasonable and attainable,” but they require additional data, according to Michael Doyle, PhD, Regents Professor of Food Safety and Microbiology and director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin.

Once we have better food attribution data, industry and regulators can put more emphasis on the areas where we need the most prevention and control resources.

–Michael Doyle, PhD, University of Georgia

In December, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) debuted Healthy People 2020, which outlines the government’s health promotion and disease prevention goals for the next decade. Its six objectives for food safety are:

• Reducing infections caused by key pathogens transmitted commonly through food;

• Reducing the number of outbreak-associated infections caused by E. coli O157, Campylobacter, Listeria, and Salmonella species in food products, including beef, dairy, fruits and nuts, leafy vegetables, and poultry;

• Preventing an increase in the proportion of non-typhoidal Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni isolates from humans who are resistant to antimicrobial drugs;

• Reducing severe allergic reactions to food;

• Improving compliance with key food safety practices among consumers; and

• Improving food safety practices in food service and retail establishments.

“Government and industry need to dedicate the majority of their resources to the foods that contribute the most to disseminating those types of foodborne illnesses that HP 2020 identifies,” Dr. Doyle said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has had a special initiative to help identify what foods are contributing most as vehicles to different types of foodborne illness, and they have indicated that they’re coming out with a paper next year on Salmonella food attribution, which might clarify the situation.”

Poultry, for example, is known to be an important vehicle for Campylobacter and Salmonella, as are eggs, but other areas of food attribution need further clarification, he said. “Produce is an area of concern, but some types tend to be more problematic than others,” Dr. Doyle said. “Once we have better food attribution data, industry and regulators can put more emphasis on the areas where we need the most prevention and control resources.”

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