FDA calls for comments on food protection plan

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Food, Food and drug administration

The Food and Drug Administration is seeking comments from industry
and other stakeholders on its Food Protection Plan, published last
year, which aims to protect the food supply from both unintentional
contamination and attack.

The FDA, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of 80 per cent of the food sold in the US (with the exception of meat, poultry and processed egg products), issued its plan in November last year, following a mandate in May 2007 form the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Commissioner of Food and Drugs. It says there is a need to consider the new challenges posed to food safety from demographic change, food technology, and business practices. In addition, the number of agents associated with foodborne illness has increased over the past ten years, and the FDA says there is "every probability that this list will continue to increase".​ The new filing, published today, gives the food industry an opportunity to comment on elements that could impact business operations; when a food company is implicated in a food safety issue the dent in consumer confidence in their brands can have a drastic effect on its business - and sometimes even an entire category of foods. There have been some food safety incidences in recent times - such as E. coli-contaminated spinach in 2006, salmonella-tainted peanut butter in February 2007 and contaminated pet food lead to the deaths of a number of animals, probably from contaminants in vegetable proteins imported into the United States from China. Despite these, though, the FDA is maintains the system currently in place is already safe but that the new plan is intended to strengthen it further. "The plan represents a proactive approach that uses science and modern technology to identify potential hazards ahead of time,"​ says the FDA. Prevention, intervention, risk ​ Indeed, prevention is one of the three core elements to the plan, which includes "promoting increased corporate responsibility so that food problems do not occur in the first place"​. It also aims to identify vulnerabilities and assess risks ahead of time, and expand understanding and use of effective mitigation measures. When interventions may be required, the plan aims to focus inspections and sampling based on risk, enhance surveillance, and improve detection of signals that indicate contamination. Finally, when food safety issues do occur, an immediate response and communication of risk to public, industry and other stakeholders are vital. Not only can this help contain the problem, if people know to steer clear of a potentially hazardous product, but good handling of a problem in the public eye can help a company limit the potential damage to its brand. Call for comments ​ Stakeholders have the opportunity to submit comments to the agency over the next 120 days though the docket management system. Amongst the comments solicited by the FDA are opinions on best practices for prevention, intervention and response, and benefits and challenges to the steps proposed in the plan. The agency wants to know how these vary by stakeholder - producer, manufacture, retailer, consumer, government, and foreign country. In addition, it is seeking comments on proposed new legislative authorities for the FDA. The call for comments is available here

Related topics: Regulation, Food safety and labeling

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