The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled its Food Protection Plan just months ago with the intention of maintaining a safe food supply for Americans.
FDA’s Food Protection Plan Progress Report, released on July 2 in conjunction with the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety Action Plan Update, demonstrates areas of activity to further improve the safety of the nation’s food supply (see “Food safety plan emphasizes ‘effective action’ to prevent food supply contamination,” CleanRooms, December 2007, page 8).
The FDA Food Protection Plan focuses on prevention (building safety in from the start), intervention (using targeted risk-based inspections and testing), and response (responding rapidly when problems are identified). FDA has been working with federal, state, and local partners as well as foreign governments to execute a number of the action steps laid out in the plan.
Activity progress in report
Prevention. FDA’s prevention activities highlighted in the progress report include implementing FDA’s landmark China Memoranda of Agreement (MOA). FDA has provided registration materials to the Chinese government, identified points of contact for the MOA, and drafted the first five-year work plan. FDA held its first bilateral meeting in March 2008 in Beijing, China. The meeting solidified the relationship with the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine (AQSIQ). Verbal agreements were made to focus the present efforts in fulfilling the MOA to aquaculture (five species plus Tilapia) and ingredients (wheat gluten, corn gluten, and rice protein). FDA is moving forward to establish an FDA presence in China.
An FDA delegation has also visited Indian counterparts to discuss requirements for an FDA presence in India. In addition, the agency is exploring current existing third-party certification programs.
In 2007, FDA began working in collaboration with the State Health and Agriculture departments in Virginia and Florida, several universities, and the produce industry on a multi-year Tomato Safety Initiative. As part of the initiative, FDA says, it has led assessments of grower practices focusing on the factors believed to be associated with contamination of tomatoes with Salmonella. FDA has conducted assessments in Virginia and began assessments in Florida in April.
The agency is also developing ingredient, processing, and labeling standards for pet food, as well as developing ingredient and processing standards for animal feed.
Intervention. Activities that have begun to take place include working with New Mexico State University to develop a prototype system for improving electronic screening, using open-source intelligence, of imported products offered for entry into the U.S. The evaluation of the prototype system, PREDICT (Predictive Risk-Based Evaluation of Dynamic Import Compliance Targeting) has been completed and the final pilot evaluation document is under review.
A rapid detection method has been developed using flow cytometry to identify E. coli and Salmonella in food. This system is being used in poultry processing facilities to detect and prevent bacterial contamination during food processing.
FDA has completed a three-year plan to increase state inspections and will hire at least an additional 130 employees to conduct food field exams, inspections, and sample collections using FY08 appropriated dollars. It also plans to conduct an additional 327 state contract food inspections in FY09 over the FY08 estimate. In FY09, the agency plans to conduct an additional 20,000 food import field exams above the FY08 performance goal.
Response. FDA is collaborating with other federal agencies; state, local, tribal, and foreign governments; and industry to develop the science and tools necessary to better understand the current risks of the food supply and to develop new detection technologies and improved response systems that rapidly react to food safety threats, including traceability.
The agency issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for funding to establish state Rapid Response Teams to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks, perform tracebacks of implicated foods, and evaluate data from investigations to identify trends.
FDA says it is currently exploring the use of multiple and targeted channels to quickly alert consumers of a threat to food safety.
For additional information on the Food Protection Plan Progress Report, visit www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/advance/food/progressreport.html.