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Implement a 21st Century Food Safety System

Each year, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases, a significant and largely preventable public health burden.  President Obama signed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act on January 4, 2011, shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.  HHS is developing a food safety system that is flexible and responsive to current and emerging threats.  HHS works with multiple partners to ensure the safety of food, including state, local, tribal, territorial, and international authorities, the private and non-profit sectors, federal and foreign government partners, and the President’s Food Safety Working Group.

Prevent Harm to Consumers from Foodborne Illness

HHS has prioritized prevention and is implementing sensible strategies designed to prevent problems before they occur.  HHS is setting rigorous, science-based standards for food safety and working with the food industry to ensure it meets these standards.  For example, HHS is developing preventive control standards for food facilities that will require firms to evaluate the hazards that could affect food safety, implement controls to reduce these hazards, and develop plans for monitoring controls and performing corrective actions when needed.  Further, HHS is developing science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce in its raw or natural (unprocessed) state on farms.  These standards will improve the safety of both domestic and imported foods.  HHS has taken steps to make it easier to protect consumers when problems emerge, including implementing new mandatory recall authorities and providing more information to consumers about recalled foods and what they can do to protect themselves and their families when outbreaks occur.  Foodsafety.gov provides consumers with prevention information, and it uses social media to reach the widest audience.

Improve Data Sources and Analysis for Effective Food Safety Inspections and Enforcement

High-quality information from routine surveillance, outbreak investigations, and scientific studies helps to determine which foods are at highest risk and which solutions should be put into place to reduce risk.  HHS is working together with its Federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial regulatory and public health partners to enhance foodborne illness surveillance systems to more rapidly identify and respond to food safety problems, to determine if new and existing food safety policies work, and to improve prevention measures. HHS is collaborating with these partners, including the Partnership for Food Protection, to support efforts to create a nationally integrated food safety system.  HHS is prioritizing crucial inspection and enforcement activities in the U.S. and across the world.  To accomplish this, HHS is supporting safety efforts by states, localities, and businesses, and enhancing data collection and analysis to guide these efforts and evaluate results.

Identify and Quickly Stop Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness

HHS is working to limit the number, scale, and duration of foodborne disease outbreaks.  HHS is collaborating with its federal, state, local, and tribal partners to strengthen public health surveillance and regulatory systems to enhance the ability to detect outbreaks faster, use food tracing systems to identify the source and distribution of products, quickly remove products from the market, and conduct root cause analysis to correct problems and inform future prevention efforts.  Through mechanisms like FoodSafety.gov, HHS is improving communications during an outbreak to better inform the public of risks, and following an outbreak to help restore consumer confidence in the food supply.