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US government to hold food safety meetings

By Staff Reporter , 04-Mar-2010

Federal agencies in the US have announced two major public meetings later this month will look at progress on the success of food safety measures, including the tracing of E.coli contaminated products.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) said a workshop in Washington DC on March 30 aims to decide how best to measure progress in reducing foodborne illness.

The assembly has been called after President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group emphasised the need for improvements in the methods used to evaluate efforts to tackle foodborne illnesses. Food safety has become a major political issue in the United States. Yesterday, a report from the Produce Safety Project (PSP) estimated that acute foodborne illness cost the US economy $152bn a year, when healthcare, workplace and other losses were evaluated.

US safety chiefs said the meeting at the end of the month would include an explanation by the CDC of how rates of foodborne illness are estimated for various purposes, as well as presentations from the other agencies on what other measurements are uses to gauge the success of policies and other actions to combat foodborne illness.

"To make our food safer, we must know as quickly as possible which foods are making people ill and why," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold R. Mande. "This meeting will help us develop the specific measures we need to see which policies work best to improve food safety."

Information about the workshop is available in the Federal Register notice, at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-4110.pdf . To register on-line, visit http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/WorkshopsMeetingsConferences/ucm201102.htm Pre-registration, which may be done on-line, will end March 24.

E.coli 0157:H7

The FSIS will also be holding a meeting on March 10 in Washington DC to look at how the agency traces food contaminated with E.coli 0157:H7. The topic became a national talking point last year after concerns were raised by politicians and the media over the US meat industry’s testing and tracing procedures in relation to the bacteria.

Pre-registration is recommended for this meeting. Information and the meeting agenda will be made available on the agency’s Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News/Meetings_&_Events/

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