In his first speech on imports since the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed in law, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor spoke to attendees of the Global Food Safety Conference in London, England, on Thursday, February 17.
"Consumers around the globe expect and demand food safety," Taylor said In his presentation, The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act: A New Paradigm for Importers. "And, of course, helping to ensure food safety is a core public health mission of the Food and Drug Administration. It’s also a continuing, dynamic challenge."
Taylor cited the recent CDC report on foodborne illness, noting that each year, 1 in 6 Americans can expect to experience foodborne illness. Of that number, more than 120,000 will be hospitalized, and, tragically, 3,000 will die.
"We know we can do better," he said. "Most of those illnesses are preventable. We know we must do better. It’s the right thing to do."
In addition, however, Taylor said that preventing the illness is just good business. " All of you in this room acutely understand the major disruptions to our economies and to international trade that occur in the wake of major foodborne illness outbreaks and product recalls. You understand how these crises can undermine consumer confidence for months and years to come."
It is that understanding that is shared by industry and consumers in the United States that brought together an unprecedented coalition to gain passage of our new law, he said, adding that the understanding underlies the U.S. consensus that science- and risk-based prevention of food safety problems is good for consumers and for the food industry.
"We also know that the food safety challenge and food safety solutions have to be understood and addressed globally, which is why and our new food safety law establishes a new paradigm for FDA’s oversight of imported food."
Taylor assured participants that implementation of the new law, including its import provisions will be based on "respect for the food industry’s foundational role in food safety, recognition of the complexity of the global food supply, and the idea of supply chain management will inform all we do."
After giving an explanation of FSMA and its implications for food imported into the United States, Taylor said, "We at FDA know we have a big job ahead of us to implement our new food safety law. We know we will be measured in the near future by how quickly and how well we do the job. And we know that, to do the job well, we will have to set priorities."
Implementing the law as a practical, effective tool for improving food safety requires the expertise, experience and support of the global food system, he said. " You could say our goal is both straightforward and herculean: A prevention-oriented, risk-based food safety system that protects our consumers from avoidable harm while preserving their access to the wide array of food choices made possible by today’s global food marketplace."
Read the full speech at FDA.