September is Food Safety Month. Given that many of our members work in the area of food safety, I thought I would devote this month's column to the importance of food safety in our daily lives and communities.
Occasional we hear that our food in the U.S. is the safest in the world. Is our food the safest in the world? Maybe, maybe not. There are many unknowns in trying to answer that question. As someone who has worked on food safety issues for decades, I am not sure our food is the safest in the world. I do know, however, that it could be safer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates every year in the U.S that approximately 48 million people come down with a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The U. S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service puts the estimated cost of foodborne illness at $15.6 billion annually. These numbers taken together are a tremendous burden to our nation and the communities where we live and work. Therefore, what are you--or better yet, what are we--doing about it?
Back in 2006, I wrote a column in this journal about the importance of partnership in reducing the burden of foodborne illness in the U.S. and our communities (www.cdc.gov/ nceh/ehs/docs/jeh/2006/sept_2006_radke. pdf). As members of the food production/ manufacturing/service industry, as members of a regulatory agency, as members of an academic/science institute, and as members of consumer groups involved in food safety, we must gather our resources and collective wit to reduce foodborne illness. The folks in our communities expect nothing less.
We have made progress in some areas of food safety. Illness cause by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 have decreased over the past 10 years. Illness caused by certain serotypes of Salmonella have been reduced through the efforts of regulatory and industry working together to make food safer.
The Food and Drug Administration's Food Code (the 9th edition was just released) has language that states all restaurants must have a certified food protection manager (CFPM). A study conducted by CDC's Environmental Health Specialist Network (EHS-Net) found that restaurants with a CFPM had less foodborne disease outbreaks than restaurants without a CFPM. Another EHS-Net study showed that restaurants with a CFPM had less major violations than restaurants without a CFPM.
The National Environmental Health Association, along with a number of organizations...