1. IMPROVE FOOD SAFETY
A national program for food safety is needed to assure public health and safety and prevent food-borne disease. A system integrating prevention, detection, intervention and attention throughout the food cycle is recommended. Technological advances in food processing and packaging, and pest control can also promote food safety. We need to build the scientific foundation for sound food safety policy, for innovation in food safety and production, and for educating consumers to improve food safety practices and increase their understanding of relative risks and benefits. Research is needed in the following areas:
(a) Identify significant risk factors associated with food production and harvest practices. Reduce human exposure to microbial pathogens, biotoxins, and chemical contaminants.
(b) Identify the nature and extent of emerging foodborne disease, the human populations at greatest risk, and behaviors that increase risk. Incorporate this information into HACCP procedures to prevent risk.
(c) Develop energy efficient food processing technologies that improve the safety, quality and composition of food.
(d) Develop new and improved equipment designs that ensure safer food processing, transport, and storage.
(e) Develop techniques to destroy microbes or prevent microbial contamination while retaining maximum quality attributes and nutrient content.
(f) Conduct ongoing basic and applied research in waste management, effluent control and treatment, and byproduct recovery and development. Transfer these technologies to agricultural producers and the food processing industry.
(g) Develop techniques to efficiently detect microbial and chemical contaminants in food.
(h) Identify the nature and extent of chemical contamination of foodstuffs, with an emphasis on identification of impact on human populations at risk.
Agency Roles-HHS and USDA play a primary role in reducing the risk of foodborne disease, including identifying hazards, determining high risks, and working with State and local health departments to halt foodborne disease outbreaks. More specifically, FDA regulates food safety, except for red meat and poultry which are regulated by USDA, and pesticides which are regulated by EPA. NOAA has developed and implemented a seafood HACCP-based inspection service. Multiple agencies are involved in food processing research and development. DOD, FDA, USDA, and NOAA investigate selected fundamental aspects of new technologies. DOD and USDA provide guidance on irradiation technology. FDA, USDA and EPA review the safety of new and modified foods, and establish regulatory limits. DOD explores new thermal processing. NOAA and USDA develop and improve seafood processing technologies. USDA and HHS conduct studies to monitor food consumption and the nutritional status of the U.S. population. Sample new projects include:
2. IMPROVE FOOD PRODUCTION/SUSTAINABILITY
A focused research agenda aimed at long term development and implementation of sustainable food production systems is imperative. Research is needed to optimize the growth of plants, animals, and beneficial microbes, and to improve understanding of how genetic and environmental influences on growth can ultimately lead to reduced pesticide use and improved food safety. We need to characterize and evaluate genetic resources of animals, plants, microbes and insects.
Sustainable practices and systems should also be supported in other, particularly developing, countries to meet global food demand. Aquaculture provides a special example of economic and environmental benefits gained through research investments in sustainable production systems. A dramatic increase in aquaculture is needed to supply future world needs where seafood demand will increase and harvests from capture fisheries will remain stable or decline. Research is needed in the following areas:
(a) A comprehensive program to acquire, characterize, document, preserve, and make available for evaluation the genetic resources of animals, fish, plants, microbes and insects important to food production.
(b) Genetic engineering, including genomic mapping.
(c) Research to optimize the sustainable production of plants, animals, fish and helpful microbes.
(d) Research of actual scale crop and animal production projects to demonstrate and validate sustainable systems.
(e) Research to understand and overcome individual and community level food insecurity and to improve access to affordable, adequate, nutritious, and safe food.
Agency Roles-USDA conducts research to gain fundamental knowledge of natural and genetic resources important to production agriculture and applies that knowledge to test and exploit biological potential in a sustainable manner. NSF supports research to foster university-industry cooperation. USDA supports R&D to improve sustainable production of cultivated aquatic animals and plants; economics, marketing, export of products, technology transfer, extension education, veterinary and health services, and information. NOAA is responsible for the conservation, management, and wise use of live marine resources. FDA has primary Federal responsibility for seafood safety and regulates animal and aquaculture drugs, feeds, and veterinary medical devices. Sample new projects include:
3. DEVELOP COMPOSITIONALLY ENHANCED FOODS
Evolving scientific evidence of nutritional requirements and dietary patterns demonstrates that specific food components-- nutrients and non-nutrients--can promote human health and reduce disease risk. Greater understanding of nutrient needs, utilization and the role of non-nutrient food components in health can improve health and quality of life. Research and development is currently underway around the world, with primary interest in antioxidants, probiotics, dietary fatty acids, and macro-ingredients such as fat replacers. These technologies, in conjunction with dietary strategies, can promote health and reduce health care needs and costs. Research is needed to:
(a) Develop analytical methodologies to identify substances in the diet linked to positive health outcomes and to establish the intake levels of foods, nutrients, and other substances at which health benefits occur.
(b) Develop appropriate compositionally enhanced products that appeal to consumers.
(c) Develop effective strategies to educate consumers about the role these products should play in daily diets.
Agency Roles-FDA plays a key role in assuring new product safety and efficacy, and together with USDA supports product development. NIH tests food products for physiological effects. Representative projects include:
4. DATA TO IMPROVE FOOD SAFETY, SECURITY AND
The needs for data to support adequate, comprehensive food safety, security and production are extensive and varied. Expanded and accessible databases of genetic resource inventories and characterization of all life forms important to food production are high priorities. A comprehensive food safety database would address many serious safety problems. It should incorporate detection methods, risk assessment techniques, cost analyses and surveillance to identify new and emerging safety threats. Better food composition and consumption data are needed to determine optimal diet and assess risk. Meeting the following data needs will require significant interagency and Federal/state/local cooperation:
(a) Additional food composition and consumption data.
(b) Data on chemical and biological food contaminants, incidence of food-borne disease, and epidemiological data to achieve a production-to-consumption HACCP program.
(c) Quantitative microbial risk assessment data bases.
(d) Data on pathogen survival and on physical and chemical effects on foods at various stages and locations during processing.
(e) Improved knowledge base of the taxonomy of plants, microbes, and beneficial and harmful insects, and soil, particularly its hydrologic properties.
(f) Linked germplasm passport and evaluation data of animal/plant/microbe/insect germplasm and sequenced genomic maps.
(g) Data bases or reliable information on sustainable technologies and natural resources to support sustainable production systems.
(h) Data to demonstrate the health benefits and adverse effects of food components.
Agency Roles--USDA and HHS will continue to tailor food composition and consumption research and databases and foodborne illness surveillance systems and databases to meet the varied needs of agencies. USDA maintains the National Nutrient Data Bank and will incorporate analyses of new food nutrients, new foods, and new food components. USDA develops data for and maintains a genetic resources information network. NOAA is developing a database for seafood contaminants and consumption information. USDA conducts the pesticide residue monitoring program and FDA conducts the Total Diet Study. Both of these contribute to our understanding of pesticides and other xenobiotics in food. EPA and HHS conduct toxicological research to better understand the risks food contaminants and additives may pose to human health.
1. BASIC STUDIES OF NUTRITION AND DIETARY
MODULATION OF GENE EXPRESSION AND CELLULAR
AND METABOLIC PROCESSES
Recent research in molecular biology and genetics indicates that nutritional agents can interact with tissue-specific, developmental, and hormonal factors to directly or indirectly affect gene expression. Individual genetic makeup is likely to influence personal responses to nutrients and to contribute to relative disease risk and different outcomes in human studies of nutrient impact. Identification of individuals and populations at risk for nutrition-related disorders because of genetic makeup will be crucial to preventive interventions. Appropriate levels of nutrients and other food components are essential in avoiding deficiencies or excesses, enhancing growth and development, and reducing the risk of a devastating range of chronic disease including diabetes and osteoporosis. The study of how dietary patterns cause such profound consequences for health will be crucial. Targeted areas of research include:
(a) Bionutrition--Molecular biology and other new areas of knowledge and/or technologies can be applied to nutrition research to investigate the role of nutrients in the regulation of gene expression, the development and differentiation of tissues, and the aberrant cellular processes that lead to disease.
(b) Physiological and neurological development--Development and differentiation of many tissues, especially nervous system development during embryonic growth, infancy, and childhood, involves nutrient influences.
(c) Specific dietary factors in health promotion and disease prevention. Recent studies have provided evidence that specific dietary factors such as dietary fat, antioxidants, micronutrients, fiber, and breastfeeding may have profound effects on health and disease.
(d) Interaction of nutrients with environmental agents--Environmental agents may be involved in processes such as oxidative damage to cellular components, modulation of gene expression by nutrients, or altered bioavailability of nutrients.
(e) Clinical intervention--Investigations of the molecular basis for the role of nutrition in specific disease is at the interface of basic and applied research.
(f) Safe upper limits of nutrients--Many people in our society consume large quantities of some nutrients from dietary supplements. Safe upper limits should be studied.
(g) Nutritionally vulnerable populations--Recent evidence that folate contributes to proper development of the neural tube in a fetus is one more example of the importance of maternal nutrition.
Agency Roles--All member agencies conduct or support human nutrition research. Some representative examples of interagency efforts to implement this strategy include:
2. ENERGY BALANCE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS IN
OBESITY, DIABETES, AND OTHER CONDITIONS
Investigation of energy balance, appetite and satiety will contribute to addressing the obesity epidemic, identifying optimal dietary and physical activity patterns for sustained health, and improving the quality of life for people suffering from anorexia and wasting. Several critical areas must be targeted:
(a) Prevention of obesity and its associated clinical conditions- - Research is needed on the role of physical activity and dietary factors in preventing obesity, understanding how associated disease relates to obesity at the molecular level, improving knowledge of ways to change food and activity-related behavior, identifying molecular/biological markers of susceptible populations, and assessing energy intakes and expenditures.
(b) Physical activity and metabolic fitness--A major question in energy balance is the importance of physical activity in maintaining overall health and individual metabolic fitness, regardless of individual weight or age.
(c) Eating disorders and undernutrition--Anorexia and associated wasting are observed in many chronic disorders including AIDS, end-stage renal and liver disease, cancer and tuberculosis, and the eating disorder anorexia nervosa. Detailed investigation of the mechanisms of anorexia should lead to specific therapeutic interventions.
Agency Roles-DHHS, USDA and DOD are engaged in energy balance research. Some interagency projects to support this strategy include:
3. RESEARCH ON HOW TO STIMULATE HEALTHY FOOD,
NUTRITION, AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY BEHAVIORS, BOTH
INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY
One of the major problems in prevention research is the lack of knowledge on preventing unhealthy behavior and stimulating healthy behavior. Factors that influence behavior can be broadly categorized into those that pertain to individuals and their immediate environments and those that occur at a socio-cultural and economic level. These two levels of influence interact to influence the development of unhealthy behavior, the degree of resistance to changing unhealthy habits, the ability to initiate and maintain healthy behaviors, and the access and opportunity to use nutritional information. We must develop measures for factors that influence food, nutrition-related, and physical activity behavior enough to clarify the mechanisms involved and to test interventions. Research needs include:
(a) Developing better methodology--Among the most important research needs are improved survey instruments and methodologies, including assessments of community characteristics and food behavior, and indicators for assessing dietary intake and nutritional status. We must develop methods to measure and alter individual factors relating to nutrition behavior--including low self-esteem and perception of self-worth, lack or loss of motivation, hopelessness, beliefs and social norms, and genetic or constitutional factors that predispose one to different personality patterns.
(b) Integrated effective population/community-based interventions--Population or community-based interventions should be undertaken as improved assessment tools become available. This also would encompass improving the availability and quality of nutrition monitoring information and food composition databases and conducting longitudinal studies to assess lifelong nutritional status in cohorts.
Agency Roles-All member agencies are involved in nutrition intervention and education. Some sample projects include: