In order to achieve an effective, efficient food safety regulatory system – one that assures a safe food supply at a cost we can afford – the new Food Safety Working Group will need to do its homework.
Specifically, we would expect this interdepartmental committee to:
- Define the scope of the problem;
- Study past efforts taken to revamp the US food safety system;
- Study efforts made by other countries to reform their food safety systems; and
- Determine what worked – and what fell short – in past reform efforts, both domestic and international.
As a first step in this review process, we would suggest a Required Reading list for Working Group members that includes at least the following items:
- The Food Safety Strategic Plan issued by the President's Council on Food Safety, issued January 19, 2001 and shelved on President Bush's watch;
- The transcript of the February 11, 2009 House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on The Salmonella Outbreak: The Continued Failure to Protect the Food Supply and associated documents;
- Ensuring Safe Food: From Production to Consumption, National Academy Press, 1998;
- US Government Accountability Office reports on food safety issues, including Selected Countries' Systems Can Offer Insights into Ensuring Import Safety and Responding to Foodborne Illness, issued in June 2008;
- USDA Office of Inspector General Reports;
- H.R. 875: Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009; and, in a reminder that those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it,
- Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives, ASM Press, January 2007
Much of the leg work has already been carried out, especially by the President's Council on Food Safety. While some of the Council's observations and recommendations will need to be updated, most of its findings are still current.
It should not take another seven years – and several more major outbreaks – before the Working Group submits its recommendations to President Obama for action.