SEATTLE — “Are we winning the battle against foodborne disease?” Frank Yiannas, FDA deputy commissioner for food policy and response, asked the hundreds of food safety leaders from around the globe at this year’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) conference. The audience said ‘“no.”

Frank Yiannas

“That is disturbing and challenging,” Yiannas told the conference attendees. “We have to continue to change and evolve.”

Yiannas said despite the impression that collectively we are not winning the battle against foodborne diseases he is “very excited about the future of food safety.”

He suggested that for some perspective we look back at some food safety history.

  • 1906 – The book, “The Jungle,” exposes the American meatpacking industry’s health violations and unsanitary practices.
  • 1906 – Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act, which led to the creation of the FDA.
  • 1938 – Congress passes the federal food, drug and cosmetic act giving FDA authority to oversee and enforce standards.
  • 1947 – Michigan becomes the first state to require pasteurization of milk.
  • 1960 – HACCP was conceived when NASA asked Pillsbury to design and manufacture food for space flights.
  • 1993 – Food safety comes into the public focus with the Jack-in-the-box E. coli outbreak.
  • 2000 – GFSI (GSF) was established.
  • 2011 – The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) becomes law, giving FDA new authority to protect public health by strengthening the food safety system and focus more on preventing food safety problems.

How are we doing now?
“I don’t believe what got us here, will get us there,” Yiannas said. “We need change in how we manage food safety.” He suggested that the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety is the start of a more interdisciplinary approach to food safety. “It has to be more than technology.”

Yiannas said that he got the smartest minds in food safety to work on the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, to work on traceability and transparency, and to develop a food safety culture.

Yiannas said he imagines a world where consumers concerned about the supply chain, can instantly know where their food comes from. “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

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