Remain vigilant on food safety

04/25/2014 10:24:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on foodborne illness suggests cautious cause for optimism and room for improvement.

First some good news.

The CDC’s Food Safety Report Card for 2013 did find a 9% decrease in reported cases of salmonella. Listeria was down 3%.

On the not as positive side, the report suggests the number of illnesses from pathogens linked to food consumption remained unchanged in 2013 compared to 2006.

Particularly alarming, the report found reported instances of the potentially deadly E. coli 0157 were up 16%.

The CDC’s statistics did not identify cases solely from foodborne infection, nor did they include specifics relating to fresh produce.

But underscoring the need for continued industry vigilance on the food safety front, infections from all pathogens tracked remain above CDC’s targeted frequencies.

The industry’s actions in the past several years show widespread understanding and acceptance of the primacy of food safety from grower-shippers to processors, repackers, haulers and retailers.

This level of understanding was in evidence during the recent Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, where attendees were asked to weigh in on questions such as: Should finished product testing be mandated for foods defined by the Food and Drug Administration as high risk (three-quarters said yes) and can finished product testing enhance a food safety program (90% said it can).

There remain many questions to be answered regarding the safety of fresh produce, with how Food Safety Modernization Act guidelines will ultimately be enforced looming large among them.

But it’s clear the industry gets the gravity of the issue and is continually striving to deliver safe and healthful products.

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