The subsequent contribution by Dr. Jørgen Schlundt, director of the food safety program of the World Health Organization (WHO), offers a global perspective on the burden of foodborne illness and progress toward the development of international systems to respond to foodborne outbreaks. WHO has assumed a central role in global food safety through its organization of Global Salm-Surv, a network linking Salmonella surveillance efforts in 141 countries, and the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), which disseminates information related to food safety. Pending forthcoming revisions to the international health regulations due to take effect in 2007, WHO will serve as the hub of a global system for reporting public health emergencies including foodborne illness.
Although each country needs to defend its food supply from deliberate contamination, Schlundt maintains that these efforts should be undertaken as part of a comprehensive food safety agenda that extends to the international level. The WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety takes a largely preventive approach, combining surveillance, communication among all stakeholders, and rapid response to foodborne outbreaks. Rather than rely on food testing to intercept contaminated products, the inherent inefficiency of which Schlundt demonstrates, WHO seeks to build capacity for safe food production and outbreak detection and alert, particularly in developing countries in recognition of their increasing contribution to global food trade.
John Bailar, M.D., Ph.D.2
Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago
The focus of my remarks to the Forum on Microbial Threats was the 1998 report entitled Ensuring Safe Food from Production to Consumption (IOM/NRC, 1998). That report was issued by a committee assembled jointly by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, which I chaired, and which included at least three participants in this workshop: Lonnie King, Sanford Miller, and Michael Osterholm. My brief presentation, summarized below, described the long-recognized need for a complete overhaul of the U.S. food safety system, including the integration of widely scattered responsibilities for food safety oversight into a single, independent federal agency.
The problems that must be addressed by the U.S. food safety system were discussed in detail in several workshop presentations (see Summary and Assessment,