Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Reader's Corner: Food Safety

Food safety risks

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of the U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

Take a moment to familiarize yourself with FSMA by reviewing this presentation.

But where do we go for international food safety standards? The first stop that I recommend is visiting the Codex Alimentarious website. Public concerns about food safety issues are often placing the Codex at the center of global debates. Biotechnology, pesticides, food additives and contaminants are some of the issues discussed in Codex meetings. Codex standards are based on the best available science assisted by independent international risk assessment bodies or ad-hoc consultations organized by FAO and WHO. Then for information on specific commodities go to the Commodity Committees page and look for the commodity that matters to you, click on the link located on the left side of the commodity. The link will take you to another page, where you need to click on the tab labeled Related Standards. This tab will list all the food safety standards associated with the commodity and its processed products.

Then I suggest visiting two additional web resources: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) pages and the World Health Organization (WHO) site. In case you missed it, after nine years, the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has produced the first global assessment of food-borne disease. The report covered 31 foodborne disease hazards that together cause 600 million illnesses, 420,000 deaths and 22 million disability adjusted life years (DALYs). The highest burden of foodborne disease is in Africa followed by Southeast Asia. In terms of known burden, 61% is due to worms, 35% to microbes and 4% to chemicals and toxins.

Together, these three resources are a great starting point to learning about food safety risks in specific commodities. Stay tuned for the upcoming Food Safety Risks resource to be released on Agrilinks soon!

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