In the recent inaugural of his “Catching Up with Califf” blog, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf called attention to the Global Food Security Index. Including measures for Quality and Safety, the United States ranked 13th in the most recent edition of the index for 2022.

The Global Food Security Index is constructed by Economist Impact and The Economist Impact team exercises full and final editorial control over all content, including data gathering, analysis, and forecasting.

The 2022 GFSI is the 11th edition of the index. Economist Impact updates the model annually to capture year-on-year changes in structural factors impacting food security. It has four major parts including:

Affordability –– Measures the ability of consumers to purchase food, their vulnerability to price shocks, and the presence of programs and policies to support consumers when shocks occur.

Availability — Measures agricultural production and on-farm capabilities, the risk of supply disruption, and national capacity to disseminate food, and research efforts to expand agricultural output.

Quality and Safety — Measures the variety and nutritional quality of average diets, as well as the safety of food.

Sustainability and Adaptation — Assesses a country’s exposure to the impacts of climate change; its susceptibility to natural resource risks; and how the country is adapting to these risks.

In his blog, the FDA Commissioner says:

“You might hear on the news or through your social media feed about a food recall, and wonder if the food you eat is safe. In fact, the U.S. has one of the safest food supplies in the world, even though the news usually does not include this reassuring fact.  

The Economist regularly updates a report that measures the Global Food Security Index, which considers food affordability, availability, quality and safety, and sustainability and adaptation, across 113 countries. The U.S. has moved up 25 positions for the food safety indicator since 2012 and is ranked a joint first for the food safety indicator in 2022.”

Califf goes on to credit “The landmark FDA Food Safety Modernization act” for improving the U.S. ranking on food safety.   

“The FDA has accomplished a tremendous amount in the last 10 years, working with the broad ecosystem of states, territories, local governments, tribes, and the industry to make the American food supply as safe as ever. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was a game-changer for regulating our food supply. Since its passage in 2011, we have worked diligently to implement the landmark law and modernize our food safety regulatory oversight and capabilities. 

“We have also developed and used advanced technology to reduce foodborne illness cases, enhancing not only our response to outbreaks but also our surveillance of foodborne pathogens. With the launch of our GenomeTrakr Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) Network, studies show that for each additional 1,000 pathogen sequences added to the database, there is a reduction of approximately six illnesses per year associated with that pathogen. Since adopting WGS for Listeria outbreaks, for example, the median number of Listeria illnesses per outbreak has declined by 50 percent. 

Califf continues with a discussion of where FDA has made progress.

“The epidemiology of foodborne illness is an imprecise science, but best estimates indicate that the incidence of foodborne illness associated with major pathogens has generally remained flat in recent years, perhaps driven by the increasing complexity of the system and improved rates of detection. However, we have made measurable progress in certain areas. A recent study looking at the impact of the FDA’s rulemaking on Salmonella Enteritidis in shell eggs found that the egg safety rule was effective in reducing the number of Salmonella illnesses and outbreaks caused by egg-containing products by over 10,000 illnesses per year.  

“The agency also did extensive work with academia and the states in the Delmarva peninsula to address the number of outbreaks associated with Salmonella from tomatoes and cucumbers. The last documented cucumber outbreak from that area was in 2014 and the last tomato outbreak was in 2015. Efforts like this form the basis for the FDA’s ongoing work on the leafy green action plan and the prevention strategies for onions, enoki and wood ear mushrooms, and infant formula.”