CHICAGO — The U.S. Food and Drug and Administration’s new food safety regulations aren’t the only changes facing fresh produce marketers, but the coming rules likely will be the most far-reaching, Robert Brackett believes.
In a talk called “Food Safety Issues on the Horizon: Thinking Differently,” Brackett, a former FDA official and now vice president and director of the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology, spoke to attendees of the U.S. Apple Association’s Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference on Aug. 22.
Besides new food safety legislation and regulation in the U.S. and other countries, Brackett identified macro changes that include globalization of food trade and production, a rising world population, climate change, diminished land availability, urbanization, global economic shifts and instant communication.
The fallout from these changes will bring increased imports of food, a need for standardized regulations between countries, more biotechnology, higher food prices and increased chances of fraud, he said.
Brackett said economic growth in developing countries will fuel rising consumer expectations and stronger demand for fruits and vegetables, meat and processed foods.
Changes in developed countries, including the U.S., include aging populations, increased reliance on medicine and the emergence of chronic conditions that could lead to health issues like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, he said. This means a substantial part of the U.S. population is at risk to problems with the safety of the food supply,
“At least 20% to 25% of the population is at risk and should watch what is in their foods,” he said. At-risk populations include the very young, the very old, those taking medicines, and others that may be allergic to food.
Brackett said that 17% of the U.S. population is 60 or older, and 4% of the population is 80 years old or older. Nearly two-thirds of the population is overweight, 44% of Americans are taking one or more prescription medicines.
New tools online
New epidemiological tools will help identify pathogens, and scientists be able to trace foodborne illness outbreaks easier, he said.
“We will have tools to allow FDA and (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to find out where outbreaks occur much more accurately and sooner than they have in the past,” he said.
Brackett said researchers will have new molecular testing tools, which will allow better attribution of where problems exist. Next generation genome sequencing will allow scientists to take a bacterium sample and complete the sequence of the whole genome quickly and cheaply. That type of test used to take as long as a year, but now Brackett said it now costs about $100 and several tests can be completed in a day.