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Research. At the same time, the FDA is only one of many federal agencies that administer at least 30 laws related to food safety. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products, while state and local governments have jurisdiction over foods produced or sold within their borders. All of the significant agencies and departments that are responsible for various aspects of food safety are detailed in Chapter 2.

According to a recent public opinion poll, in general, confidence about the safety of the food supply appears to be lower now than it has been since 2001 (Gallup, 2010). The complexity of the system, combined with highly publicized recalls and outbreaks costing millions of dollars, the resulting impacts on the public health, and the piecemeal nature of the current system, has raised concern about the FDA’s ability to ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply. The purpose of this study is to identify gaps in the FDA’s food safety system and recommend actions that can be taken to fill those gaps.


Increasing Discussion and Controversies About the FDA’s Ability to Ensure Safe Food

Many recent changes in the nation’s food system have prompted increasing discussion of the FDA’s ability to ensure safe food. The 1998 Institute of Medicine (IOM)/National Research Council (NRC) report Ensuring Safe Food: From Production to Consumption identifies some of these changes, such as the food safety implications of emerging pathogens, the trend toward the consumption of more fresh produce, the trend toward eating more meals away from home, and changing demographics, with a greater proportion of the population being immunocompromised or otherwise at increased risk of foodborne illness.1 These developments must be understood in the context of a wide range of global and societal changes that greatly increase the complexity of the food safety system and the challenges faced by those responsible for implementing the system. These changes, detailed in Chapter 2, include changes in the food production landscape, climate change, evolving consumer perceptions and behaviors (e.g., the growing demand for fresh produce and for its availability year-round2), globalization and increased food importation, the role of labor–management


A demographic change receiving particular attention today is the growth of the elderly population, which is at higher risk of foodborne illness. It is estimated that by 2015, 20 percent of the population will be over age 60, and the number at risk will increase accordingly (GAO, 2010).


From 1992 to 2005, there was a 180 percent increase in consumption of leafy greens in the United States (GAO, 2008a).

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