Obama Introduces Bill to Improve Food Safety
After Salmonella outbreak this summer, legislation would strengthen state and federal surveillance and response efforts
U.S. Senator Barack Obama introduced the Improving Food-borne Illness Surveillance and Response Act of 2008, which would improve information sharing and collaboration between public and private agencies and other organizations to effectively address food safety challenges. This summer, millions of Americans were exposed to Salmonella and many became ill, while state and federal agencies struggled to identify the contaminated food source and develop a comprehensive and timely response.
The Obama food safety legislation would strengthen and expand food-borne illness surveillance in order to better inform and evaluate efforts to prevent these illnesses. This bill would also enhance the identification and investigation of food-borne illness outbreaks, which would assist officials to respond appropriately. In anticipation of future challenges, this bill would require a survey of state health departments to determine critical needs as well as the development of strategic plans.
"We must do everything we can to ensure that our families don't get sick from the foods they eat," said Senator Obama. "This summer, when so many Americans were exposed to Salmonella, we learned that state and federal agencies lacked the sufficient capacity to quickly and effectively respond to this crisis. This legislation will improve our government's monitoring of food, strengthen information sharing between government agencies, and increase collaboration between public and private partners."
Today, a number of problems have been identified by federal and state agency officials and advocacy groups that challenge our ability to respond to food-borne illness outbreaks. These challenges include the need for increased coordination and full participation in existing surveillance systems; collection of data that identifies not just the pathogen but also the food source; easier and more rapid tests and improved technology to identify pathogens; better information sharing across public health and regulatory agencies; and efforts to recruit and retain a multidisciplinary workforce.
The Obama bill would:
* Enhance food-borne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on food-borne illnesses.
* Establish a diverse working group of food safety experts and stakeholders to develop an annual public report and strategic plan to address deficiencies in food-borne illness surveillance.
* Enhance the food safety capacity and roles of state and local agencies, and integrate their efforts as fully as possible into national food safety initiatives.
* Make grants to state and local agencies to expand food safety capacity and programs.