April 23, 2012

Going global: Imports are up, and so are FDA’s efforts to ensure food safety, report says

Each year since 2005, food imports to the U.S. have grown by an average of 10 percent. In total, approximately 50 percent of fresh fruits and 20 percent of fresh vegetables consumed in the U.S. come from abroad.

What that means to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a transformation from a domestic to a global public health policy.

With that in mind, FDA has just released the agency’s “Global Engagement Report” outlining the activities and strategies it is implementing to fulfill its expanded role.

Besides opening offices in key locations around the world, FDA is partnering with other international agencies, organizations and coalitions to strengthen global, regulatory capacity-building efforts; develop and harmonize science-based regulatory standards; increase awareness of the importance of regulatory systems; and share information and data globally to facilitate rapid identification of and response to public health emergencies.

For example, to stay on top of outbreaks of foodborne illness, FDA participates in global networks of regulators and non-governmental public health organizations to continually monitor information from a variety of international alert systems. Its mobile laboratories are available to be deployed for rapid sample analysis. For example, the report says, FDA’s microbiology mobile lab has often been used at the U.S.-Mexico border to check for pathogens on leafy greens and other fresh produce. Its chemistry mobile lab was deployed to the U.S.-Canadian border to examine food samples for pesticides and toxins.

The report also cites the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act as pivotal in providing FDA with “crucial new authorities and tools to ensure the safety of imported food.”

To view the full report, click here.


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