The Healthy People 2020 initiative recently held a public webinar to update stakeholders on progress toward food safety objectives. Addressing the goals to reduce infections from pathogens commonly transmitted through food, Roberta Wagner, deputy director for regulatory affairs at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), cited new tools provided under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The mandatory recall authority was used twice in 2013 to remove Salmonella-tainted pet treats and adulterated dietary supplements from the market, she said, and administrative detection authority has been used six times since FSMA was enacted. “The rates of Salmonellosis have not decreased significantly since the inception of FoodNet – so for more than 15 years,” said David Goldman, assistant administrator of the Office of Public Health Science in the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “FSIS is tackling Salmonella through more stringent industry performance standards and implementation of an agency action plan.”

For Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Goldman said that FSIS now tests a broader range of source products for ground beef, has instituted sampling for 0157 STECs, has incorporated new methodologies into outbreak investigations, and proposed regulations to label products containing mechanically tenderized beef. He added that FSIS is also developing guidance for retail markets to help reduce Listeria contamination and a possible retail enforcement strategy. Wagner also noted FDA’s establishment of the Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network in 2011 to help federal, state and local food safety regulatory and public health partners address outbreaks. To address preventing an increase in the proportion of nontyphoidal Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni isolates in humans that are resistant to antimicrobial drugs, Wagner cited FDA’s plan to phase out the use of certain antibiotics in food animals. A focus on reducing severe allergic reactions to food among adults has led FDA to modernize Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) to protect against allergen cross-contact, develop improved methods for the accurate measurement of allergens in complex foods, and tackle problematic food combinations such as undeclared milk in dark chocolate. FSIS took steps to refocus inspectors’ attention to potentially allergenic ingredients and now believes it has made an impact in reducing the number of recalls related to undeclared allergens. And, to help increase the number of consumers following key food safety practices, FDA launched mobile-compatible versions of its site and FSIS has been using both traditional and non-traditional vehicles for educating the public, and Goldman noted that the agency has already exceeded and had to revise targets for website visits, YouTube views and Twitter followers.