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US to upgrade food safety system

US Vice President Biden was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to announce the key findings of the Food Safety Working Group.

Created by President Obama in March to advise the Administration on how to upgrade the food safety system for the 21st century, the Working Group is recommending a new, public health-focused approach to food safety based on 3 core principles: prioritising prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.

"There are few responsibilities more basic or more important for the government than making sure the food our families eat is safe," said Vice President Biden. "Our food safety system must be updated… I applaud the Secretaries of HHS and the USDA for tackling this problem head-on and coming up with key recommendations to ensure the health and safety of our food supply and, with it, the American people."

The Working Group announced specific steps designed to advance its core principles:
• HHS and USDA are targeting salmonella contamination by developing tougher standards to protect the safety of eggs, poultry, and turkey.
• To fight the threat of E. coli, USDA is stepping up enforcement in beef facilities and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is developing new industry guidance improving protections for leafy greens, melons, and tomatoes.
• The Obama Administration is building a new national traceback and response system including clearer industry guidance, a new unified incident command system, and improved use of technology to deliver individual food safety alerts to consumers.
• Finally, the Administration announced a plan to strengthen the organization of federal food safety functions, including the creation of new positions at key food safety agencies and a continuing oversight role for the Food Safety Working Group.

Source: USDA

Natalie Berkhout

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