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Report Calls for Separate US Food Safety Agency

Most food-borne illnesses traced to regulated food, so system needs to change

THURSDAY, March 26 (HealthDay News) -- A dedicated agency for food safety is needed to combat food-related health threats, according to a report, Keeping America's Food Safe, produced by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently regulates 80 percent of America's food supply, most food-borne illnesses are traced to regulated foods, and under the current structure, there is no single official within the FDA who has line authority over all its food safety functions. In addition to inadequate leadership and coordination, inspection practices and laws are outdated, with insufficient emphasis on food safety throughout the production process, according to the report.

Imports account for 60 percent of fresh fruits and vegetables and 75 percent of seafood consumed in the United States, but only 1 percent of imports are inspected, and the FDA is struggling with inadequate funding and high staff turnover, the authors note. Creating a separate Food Safety Administration is necessary to tackle food-borne illnesses and food safety, the report states.

"Food safety needs to be a priority on the prevention menu," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement. "We shouldn't have to worry about our children getting sick from their school lunch or from a family meal at a restaurant. And we shouldn't have to wait until people become sick to learn about food safety problems. We need modern, comprehensive ways of preventing and detecting problems before food gets to the table."

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