U.S. Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor discussed consumer confidence issues at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo in Shanghai, China last week.

Taylor said that while public health is the primary goal of food safety, the consumer confidence that results from it is “an important goal in its own right.”

“Individuals and families everywhere want the peace of mind that comes from knowing the food they put on the table is safe. And we are all better off from a public health perspective if consumers can choose a healthy, diverse and economical diet without having to worry about food safety,” said Taylor in his prepared remarks. “Consumer confidence also has big economic implications. It provides the foundation for the growing global trade in food, as well as robust domestic markets that are open to innovative products and technologies. And we know that when major illness outbreaks and contamination incidents damage consumer confidence in a particular commodity or sector, the loss of sales can be significant and take a long time to recover.”

“Most consumers understand that food is not risk free. They are not asking for the impossible. But they do expect that everyone involved in producing, processing, transporting and marketing food is doing everything they reasonably can to prevent problems and make food safe. And that is the expectation we are all working to meet,” he said.

Taylor pointed out that several countries are also working on modernizing their food safety systems.

“The Canadian Senate recently passed the Safe Food for Canadians Act to strengthen food safety oversight, and, just to underscore the global sweep of the food safety modernization movement, the Dominican Republic, Madagascar, and Vietnam, to name a few, are pursuing modernized food safety laws, driven by the same public health, consumer confidence and economic goals that motivate food safety modernization in the United States and China.”

He also emphasized the importance of “credible and effective” government oversight and told the audience that FDA is making progress implementing food safety reforms.

“Regulation must never be seen as a substitute for industry responsibility and commitment. On the other hand, history and recent experience have shown that government oversight and active engagement are crucial to food safety and consumer confidence. This is because there are some things only government can do.”

“The road to modernization is long. It comes with its share of twists and turns, but we know where we’re going, and we know how to get there. Now we just have to complete the journey.’

“If you look on FDA’s website at the Food Safety Modernization Act page, you will see how far we have come in the United States in our modernization journey. We are developing new prevention standards and new inspection and compliance strategies. We are building an entirely new import safety system. And we are forging new partnerships with our states, with foreign governments, and with industry, academic and consumer stakeholders to foster and support widespread implementation of modern food safety practices.”