Report analyzes food safety system

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 28, 2008

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Ensuring the safety of the fruits and vegetables we eat has been a topic much in the news lately, and now it has inspired a report from the Rapid Health Policy Response Project of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

The project presents data and other background information on breaking public health stories.

The nation's food safety regulatory system is deeply fragmented, according to the report, with 15 federal agencies charged with administering at least 30 laws related to food safety.

The Food and Drug Administration has the largest responsibility, overseeing about 80% of the nation's food supply, including produce. Meat, poultry and eggs fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Agriculture Dept.

While USDA inspectors are on the scene daily in meat and poultry processing plants and slaughterhouses, the FDA has no comparable inspection requirement, the report said, with personnel hardly ever appearing at farms unless there already has been a disease outbreak.

Likewise, the USDA has a much more elaborate process for monitoring imported food under its jurisdiction, while the FDA has no procedures for reviewing the food safety programs of other countries and almost no resources for monitoring foreign agriculture or food processing practices.

The GWU report is online (link).

Note: This item originally appeared at

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