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Blog: U.S. Gets Gold Medal in ‘Food Safety Olympics’ With EU

Usually it’s David Acheson, a former top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official, who stirs things up with his speeches or guest commentaries from The Acheson Group.

But, this time, it’s the consulting firm’s chief science officer, Jennifer McEntire, who came up with a sort of food safety Olympics between the United States and the European Union. She also did the scoring, showing that the U.S. is No. 1, hands down.

In other words, the U.S. gets the gold medal for food safety.

This all came about simply because McEntire took a Feb. 19 report from the European Food Safety Authority, the umbrella food safety agency for the 27 counties in the EU, and did a little side-by-side comparison with U.S. data.

McEntire, former senior staff scientist and director of science and technology projects for the Institute of Food Technologists, made comparisons in four areas: Campylobacteriosis, Salmonellois, Listeriosis and pathogenic E. coli, creating illness rates to indicate how many people out of 100,000 got sick.

The U.S. bested the EU in three categories and was tied in the fourth. The EU calls Shiga-producing toxins like O157:H7 verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTECs). The U.S. rates for O157-like E. coli is 1.12 per 100,000 and 1.16 per 100,000 for non-O157 STEC, according to McEntire. The EU rate for VTECs was 1.15 per 100,000.

After that tie, however, the U.S. clearly bests the EU in the three other categories. The U.S. rate for Campylobacteriosis was 14.3 per 100,000 vs. 55.5 for the EU. McEntire says while the campy rate is down, it remains the EU’s most commonly reported pathogen. In the U.S., it has risen, but only slightly.

The Salmonellosis rate for the U.S. was 16.42 per 100,000 and 22.2 for the EU. Salmonellosis is on a downward trend in Europe, with control in poultry getting most of the credit. The U.S. rate, however, remains superior.

The Listeriosis rate is 0.25 per 100,000 for the U.S. and 0.41 per 100,000 for the EU. The U.S. has zero tolerance for Listeria, while Europe does not. McEntire says the Listeriosis rate is on the rise in the EU from a fairly low base. She says the EU’s “greater acceptance” of raw milk is part of the problem.

McEntire plans to write a follow-up to her Acheson Group blog addressing “the wonderful points readers have made.” Most of the discussion has been about differences between Americans and Europeans when they approach their respective medical systems.

The Acheson Group was spun out of Leavitt Partners in late 2013 when it was Global Food Safety Solutions. Leavitt, which focuses on health care, was an incubator since 2009 for Acheson’s work in the food and beverage industry.

Dr. Acheson is a former top official for both USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and FDA. When he left government, he was FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.

© Food Safety News
  • Dr. John Hnatio

    This is a most unfortunate article. The “we are better than them” card is a sign of U.S. arrogance that we simply do not need in the global food industry. What makes this article even worse is it’s total disregard for real science. The rate of occurrence of food-borne pathogens is the result of multivariate factors that are sensitive to environment and time. The occurrence of food borne pathogens is the result of their existence in complex adaptive systems. What we have here is nothing but pseudo-science extrapolated to arrogance. It is the job of a PhD to separate science from fiction not to write a self-serving novel about the superiority of the United States. We (meaning all of us who are part of the global food supply) have a long way to go. The United States and all of the countries of the world are in the same boat. A little less arrogance could go a long way.

  • Bill Pilacinski

    This is no surprise to anyone who has worked with the agencies on both sides of the Atlantic, as I have. When it comes to actually saving lives and preventing illness the FDA beats the EU (or any other food safety agency in the world) hands down. However, when it comes to politically motivated food safety rules, which have nothing to do with saving lives or preventing illness, the prize, however unwanted, goes to the EU.

  • Guest

    I’m not American or European, so I have no agenda. However, I would like to say comparisons such as these are important. It’s not a way of saying, “we’re better than you!”, but rather a way of saying, “what are other jurisdictions doing that we can adopt?”. I think the EU could learn a lot about what the Americans are doing, and maybe can adopt policies and regulations to improve the EU system.

  • Bill

    Wait–excuse me? 48,000,000 ill every year with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths is someone’s idea of something deserving of any kind of award? What were they smoking?
    We may be cutting more such events than the EU, but I don’t believe the statistics cited (from CDC) warrant anything except, “We’re headed in the right direction.”