Monday, June 02, 2008

Harnessing Knowledge to Ensure Food Safety

The Food Safety Research Consortium (FSRC) released a new report that calls for sweeping changes in the way food safety information is collected and shared. The report, “Harnessing Knowledge to Ensure Food Safety: Opportunities to Improve the Nation’s Food Safety Information Infrastructure,” was written by Michael Taylor (George Washington University) and Michael Batz (University of Florida) with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Some key findings include:

· System-wide improvement in how food safety information is collected and shared is essential to achieving the vision of a risk-based, preventive system in the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Protection Plan and in most of the food safety bills being developed in Congress.

· This lack of coordination is a consequence of the highly decentralized nature of the food safety system, built-in obstacles to data sharing in many government and private organizations and the lack of incentives and means for organizations and individuals to help meet the information needs of the system as a whole.

To address these problems, the authors recommend the following:

· Establish a national policy making it the duty of all federal agencies to better coordinate information collection, consider the information needs of the system as a whole, and maximize information sharing among all levels of government and with the private sector.

· Establish a forum to foster communication and collaboration among government, industry, consumers and academia to solve food safety information problems.

· Give high priority to enhancing the nation’s investment in food safety epidemiology and making the collection and sharing of epidemiological data more responsive to the needs of regulators, the food industry and consumers.

· Use the Web to connect dispersed databases and electronic networks in order to make it easier for those seeking food safety information to find it.

· Do a better job of prioritizing information collection and making valuable data generated by academic researchers and private firms more readily available to others in the food safety system.

· Provide adequate public resources to implement the new food safety information policy and program.

The full report and executive summary are available from the FSRC Web site at: http://www.thefsrc.org/FSII/events.htm.

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