US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deputy commissioner for food Michael R. Taylor, who was speaking at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo in Beijing, outlined the agency’s vision of addressing safety issues while presenting US plans for the implementation of the new Food Safety Modernization Act.
Taylor told Chinese delegates at the conference in Beijing that it is important that they work together to “create a food safety system that takes a global approach to preventing food safety problems.”
Taylor added that the US, where approximately 15% of the food supply is imported, is in need of “a credible, consistent approach to food safety is essential.”
Growing export importance
“While we may differ in language, culture and economies, we are connected through the global marketplace, which makes it essential that we move forward on food safety together – regardless of where we call home.”
Currently in the US, around 80% of seafood, 50% of fresh fruit and 20% of vegetables is imported.
The FDA has been working to establish a global standard for imports, and has met with regulatory counterparts in Canada, Mexico, the EU, in addition to briefing the embassy community in Washington DC.
The addition of China in the food safety outreach signifies the countries growing importance as a food exporter to the US.
Taylor added: “We also see in the new law a powerful vision of a food safety system that both achieves higher levels of assurance about the safety of food and does it more efficiently by harnessing the efforts of all participants in the food system in a partnership for prevention.”
“This partnership is based on clearly defined responsibilities and strengthened accountability for taking steps we know can improve food safety.”
Reduce contamination risk
“The challenge is great but so, too, is the opportunity to strengthen food safety and the global food system. We will succeed if we work together, if we build a true partnership for prevention, and it we sustain our effort for the long term.”
“The importance of such standards for produce is well recognized in the United States. We have had several significant produce-related illness outbreaks in recent years, most recently the one related to cantaloupes,” said Taylor.
This listeria outbreak, which has killed 29 people and infected a further 139 people across 28 states - making it the worst foodborne contamination since 1924 and the worst in modern US history
“No country is immune to the possibility of an outbreak. We believe that setting science-based standards for produce, and working closely with growers to implement them, will reduce this risk.”