Federal agencies have taken a number of steps recently to improve food safety, according to a December 2011 progress report from the federal Food Safety Working Group.
President Barack Obama established the interagency group in March 2009 to coordinate federal efforts to strengthen the U.S. food safety system. The working group has provided for increasing collaboration on prevention and surveillance of food-borne illnesses and response to outbreaks.
The FSWG progress report chronicles various initiatives by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
In 2010, the FDA implemented regulations to reduce Salmonella contamination of eggs. In December 2011, the agency announced creation of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance to develop training courses and materials on preventing contamination of food during production.
The FSWG progress report highlights CDC surveillance and investigation of food-borne illnesses. In 2010, the CDC expanded its Foodborne Diseases Centers for Outbreak Response Enhancement, following a pilot program.
Recently, the FSIS set new standards to reduce pathogens at poultry slaughter facilities. The agency defined six more strains of shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli, in addition to E coli O157, as adulterants in ground beef. Further, the FSIS proposed a new policy that would require meat and poultry production facilities to hold products pending results of tests for harmful substances.
The FSWG also focused on consumer education by creating a central information source at www.foodsafety.gov. The website offers information on food safety, food-borne illnesses, recalls and alerts, and relevant topics.
Information about the FSWG and a copy of the progress report are available at foodsafetyworkinggroup.gov.