Fixing the Food Safety System: New Ideas

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The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announce the release of a new report on how to fix the food safety system. The report, Keeping America's Food Safe: A Blueprint for Fixing the Food Safety System at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), makes a bunch of suggestions for strengthening the FDA. The FDA, it says, needs to concentrate resources on the highest risks, enforce existing rules (what a concept), establish a position with authority over all food safety programs in the agency, and work with Congress to establish a Food Safety Administration within HHS.

Wait a minute: I thought two agencies were involved in food safety regulation. Yes, HHS regulates most foods through the FDA, but the USDA regulates meat and poultry. These are not two separate food systems. Wastes from food animals (USDA-regulated) contaminate fruits and vegetables (FDA-regulated).

Don't we need one system? I think we do.

And buried in the mess of bills submitted to Congress and currently under consideration (handily summarized by Bill Marler), are several aimed at doing just that. This is a great time to weigh in on them, especially since polls show that nearly 75% of Americans are more afraid of food than they are of terrorists.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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