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Everyone has heard the stories about mad cow disease and other food-borne diseases coming into the United States from countries such as United Kingdom and China. Besides that locally, foodborne illnesses are among the top of deaths within the United States. Cause of these deaths, most could be prevented if better rules and regulations were in place federally and locally in the United States. In this paper I will be discussing insight on how the US Government can improve the effectiveness of state and local food safety programs.
Food safety responsibilities at the state and local levels reside in too many agencies (health, agricultural, industry, etc. ) With all of these agencies it is hard for all of them to cooperate together when detecting and reporting said incidences to the federal level. Without an effort to build a comprehensive national regulation that cover the three basic elements of prevention, detection, and rapid response. When it comes to the area of surveillance, there is a lack in the communication chain between federal agencies, state, and local health agencies.
A good example of this lack of surveillance was back in 2008, when Federal Drug Administration found traces of melamine in infant milk products. However, the FDA concluded melamine or cyanuric acid alone, “at or below 1 part per million in infant formula do not raise public health concerns” in babies. (2008 Chinese milk scandal) Melamine is a toxic chemical that can be harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
According to FDA scientists, melamine can be absorbed into the blood stream forming clots that can cause kidneys to malfunction.
United States FDA’s limit was put at 0. 63 mg, but was later reduced to 0. 63 mg daily. The World Health Organization’s food safety director estimated that the amount of melamine a person could stand per day without incurring a bigger health risk, the “tolerable daily intake” (TDI), was 0. 2 mg per kg of body mass (“Melamine”) To eliminate such risks from entering into the United States, FDA needs to improve on monitoring and/or inspection of the food safety practices of foreign food producers and suppliers. A solution to this surveillance problem would be improved communications and collaboration between federal agencies, state, and local health jurisdictions involved in food safety surveillance.
As well as promote access to information from multiple passive foodborne outbreak surveillance databases by federal, state, and local health jurisdictions such as Pulse-Net. With better surveillances put into place, the next step would to concentrate on the inspection and regulation phases. There was an article written in 1956 (Eat, drink, & be wary, 1956) that explains how FDA does not regulate everything the same. The article goes on to explain about how Florida oranges and the additives that are used and how three of the dyes were deemed “highly toxic.
It also states that if the FDA were to make new laws, which can take years for them to be passed. Another way is to mandate uniformity in product dating so consumers and regulators can differentiate between production dates, “sell by” dates, “use by” dates, and if dates are based on food safety concerns or product freshness considerations. Woteki & Kineman wrote an article entitled “Challenges and approaches to reducing foodborne illness” how the science of foodborne illnesses are accelerating faster than laws that can protects against said illnesses.
While American consumers benefit from one of the world’s safest food supplies, the existing framework is a patchwork of laws and regulations that are frequently inconsistent and lag far behind current scientific knowledge of the risks posed by foodborne pathogens and toxic chemicals. (Woteki, Kineman, 2003) With proper regulations now in place, working on proper inspection procedures would be the next step to ensure safer food being imported and exported within the United States.
Federal government needs to support continued development of a uniformed food safety inspection program for all state and local health jurisdictions and encourage its adoption through federal funding. The FDA has been working on this by developing Model Retail Food Standards. (NEHA, 2011) However, to improve the regulations that are needed the FDA have areas for improvement; such as encouraging (but not mandate) more uniformity in regulatory codes nationwide. Another solution in the inspection process would be to have a secure database where all the proper documents to be accessible by user-defined personnel.
There was an incident where a local health department had to file a request for a copy of the most recent inspection of a food manufacturing plant from a certain federal agency. By the time that request was processed, six months had passed and the inspection was outdated and useless. (NEHA, 2011) Overall, the United States does ok in the prevention and detection of severe cases of foodborne illnesses. However, I believe that the FDA should do a better job in communicating with state and local government to better prevent and detect said type illnesses.
Again some ways that could happen is to try to get a uniformed code of regulations across nationally. Now by doing this I am not saying we will prevent foodborne illnesses totally but we, as a nation, would be better off to indicate and be able to take the corrective actions needed.
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