Even though the U.S. food supply is one
of the safest in the world, millions of citizens become ill each year due
to food borne pathogens, such as E. coli O157:H7 and Hepatitis A.
In addition, there is growing concern associated with the consumption of
foods containing potentially harmful levels of toxins (e.g., aflatoxin)
and the development of antibiotic resistance resulting from extensive use
of antibiotics in animal production. Starting in 1993 with the Vice-President's
National Performance Review recommendation to move to a system of preventive
controls for food borne pathogens, the Administration has taken major strides
to improve our current food safety system. Specifically, the President:
Key to the success of these initiatives will be the development and application of 1) sound risk assessment procedures; 2) research to resolve uncertainties identified through risk assessments or otherwise to generate new knowledge that can be applied to cost-effective pathogen detection, prevention, and other intervention technologies; 3) analysis of data generated by surveillance systems such as Food Net and the National Antibiotic Resistance Network; and 4) dissemination of that new knowledge/technologies to producers, processors, and consumers.
Over the past year, the Committee on Science IWG on Food Safety Research conducted an in-depth assessment of the federal food safety research portfolio. A report is being drafted that reflects the breadth and diversity of this portfolio as well as input received at a public meeting held on June 30, 1998. The IWG's work will be central to the functioning of the Joint Institute for Food Safety Research, which was mandated by the President on July 3, 1998. On August 25, 1998, the Joint Institute was brought under the auspices of the President's Council on Food Safety. Upon publication of its report, the IWG will disband, and the Joint Institute will assume the food safety research planning and coordination activities.
The President's Science Advisor, Neal Lane, is co-chair of the President's Council on Food Safety along with Secretaries Glickman (USDA) and Shalala (HHS). OSTP played a major role in establishing this Council and getting it up and running. Neal Lane chaired the first council meeting, which was held on December 16, 1998. Over the past year, the Council held four public meetings to obtain input on the future of the federal food safety system. For further information on the federal government's food safety activities can be found at the following website: http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fs-toc.html.