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Page 33 6 Overview The purpose of this workshop was to focus on many of the issues that complicate the development of microbiological food safety policy, focusing on the use of science in establishing policy and in determining the utilization of food safety resources. A large array of themes and issues were illuminated during the workshop. Although the Food Forum cannot make conclusions or recommendations based on the presentations at the workshop, the following is an overview of the issues that were illuminated. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Presented by M. Jaye Nagle Director, Scientific Relations, Kraft Foods The specific goal of this symposium was to explore the issues that exist between the use of science in both establishing food safety policy and utilizing food safety resources. The presenters successfully accomplished this goal through a variety of perspectives, rich discussion, and provocative questions. The following is a brief overview of the major issues that were illuminated during the conference and raised for future consideration. During the symposium, it became clear that most of the participants thought that there is a need for: utilization of science in risk assessments to lead to better food safety policy; more and better data related to food safety, and recognized that FoodNet and PulseNet, food-borne illness monitoring systems, are important in that regard; enhanced coordination among food safety agencies, academia, and the private sector in order to facilitate effective and efficient utilization of all food safety resources and to direct food safety research priorities; broad stakeholder involvement and engagement on food safety policy issues; proactive responses/reactions to food safety threats and issues as opposed to reactively addressing emerging hazards; compelling and effective food safety education across the food chain, especially targeted to “at risk” consumers;
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Page 34 consideration of other factors beyond hard science and the extent to which the other factors should play a role, with or without formal recognition, in risk assessment processes; inclusion of better risk communication approaches; open and transparent risk management and regulatory decision-making processes; the importance of establishing a logical framework for the risk managers and stakeholders, in particular identifying and clearly distinguishing variability and uncertainty; and receptivity to new data and information, both negative and positive. In contrast to the above issues, there are also areas where differences of opinion exist and these include: whether current statutory authorities, in some ways, impede the application of science and risk assessment in food safety policy decisions; how best to employ Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and pathogen reduction strategies and how to define the limitations on some end product testing programs; how to best apply inspection resources and monitoring programs across the farm-to-table continuum for maximum assurance of food safety; “how safe is safe enough;” what does “tolerable level of risk” mean; how much and which information should go on labels; defining the best approach or mix of regulatory tools to achieve food safety public health goals; does it include guidance, consumer advisories, warning labels, or regulation; how best to integrate factors beyond hard science into decision-making; and whether social scientists should be brought in to help shape and communicate information about risk and to what extent. Finally, emerging areas for future consideration were also discussed, such as: defining guidelines on the application and interpretation of legitimate factors other than science that are relevant in the risk management process; creating a systematic structure or process to modify, update, and redesign existing regulations; enhancing the use of full risk characterizations in the regulatory decision-making process as well as advancing state of the art in risk assessment; enhancing the communication between scientists and risk assessors; and bridging the communication gap between the public/stakeholders and the risk managers and/or risk communicators. Clearly, ensuring food safety is truly a common goal. Many lessons have been learned and improvements made as techniques and regulations are generated and applied to create a safer food supply, yet much room for improvement remains. There are a number of fora where food safety improvement are being discussed such as the Joint Institute for Food Safety Research, the Codex Alimentarius process, the President's Food Safety Council, the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods, and ongoing microbial risk assessments. Although the Food Forum does not make recommendations, everyone can participate in making suggestions to any of the above fora.
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