The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies today released its report, Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration, with comprehensive recommendations about improving the safety of the nation's food supply. U.S. Senator Herb Kohl commissioned the IOM study to review weaknesses in the current food safety system as part of the FY2008 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. Kohl is the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Kohl has worked to increase the FDA's budget to strengthen their efforts to keep the food supply safe, including increasing the number of food safety inspectors domestically and abroad and developing new, regional rapid response teams across the country to identify and isolate contaminated produce at its source.
"The report sheds light on the reasons that, despite FDA's commitment to keeping our food supply safe, we still see hundreds of thousands of cases of serious illness each year caused by foodborne contamination. It's a useful guide on how we can improve and modernize our food safety system. While some of the recommendations are already underway at FDA, this report provides clear goals we can all work toward," Kohl said.
The IOM report notes that FDA is responsible for overseeing approximately 80% of the U.S. food supply, including all produce, seafood and cheeses. The report states that foodborne diseases caused by bacteria such as E. Coli or Salmonella, in addition to viruses, parasites and chemicals, lead to 76 million foodborne illnesses each year in the United States. Of those cases, serious illnesses lead to 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
The report finds that FDA's approach to food safety, " continues to be reactive, lacking a systemic focus on prevention." The report suggests that the FDA needs to use a risk-based approach to evaluate food safety problems, meaning it should implement strategic planning, data sharing, hazard prioritization and select policy interventions.
The IOM report also calls on the FDA to integrate food safety inspection and surveillance programs between the state and federal government, something Kohl has championed over the last several years.
A complete copy of Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration, can be viewed at this link: www.iom.edu/fdafoodsafety
Kohl has worked with the President's Food Safety Working Group, the interagency group tasked with overhauling the food safety system. For FY2009, one of Kohl's priorities was to increase funding for the FDA by nearly $325 million over the previous year. The FY2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill included a $346 million increase for FDA and the Food Safety and Inspection Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.