Law and Evidence in Mitigating Food Safety Risks in the Global Food Supply: A Policy Forum
April 15-16, 2010 The United States needs a system that focuses on preventing—not just reacting to—food-borne illness, according to an official with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“What we’re seeing is a global recognition that modern prevention controls [are necessary],” said Michael Taylor, J.D., the administration’s deputy commissioner for foods, during an April 15 lecture as part of an international colloquium on food safety in global trade sponsored by Georgetown University’s Food Safety Work Group.
Speaking at the invitation of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Taylor’s comments addressed many of the key issues discussed throughout the two-day colloquium by legal scholars, food microbiologists, and policymakers.
Taylor said a 1938 statute, “gave FDA the power at the point of entry to inspect the food,” with the option to block its entry or to send it back to the country of origin.
“This is a very weak system when you consider we have 10 million import entries a year,” he noted.
He pointed to pending Congressional legislation as a positive means of expanding the FDA’s authority and proactively protecting the public’s health related to food safety.
Opportunities are emerging, including more accountability for importers of foreign food, developing tighter alliances with foreign countries that have strong food safety systems, a third-party certification that importers are meeting the federal government’s standards, and closer scrutiny of foreign facilities.
“The public simply demands accountability,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to meet that expectation.”
NHS Dean Bette Jacobs, noted that U.S. society, in the modern age, has taken for granted the safety of the food supply.
“We love to make announcements about being on the cutting-edge of thought and action,” she said. “And certainly this afternoon we have the opportunity to do that.”
The O’Neill Institute is a joint partnership between NHS and Georgetown University Law Center.