Food Safety Report to Outline New Approach to Combating Food-Borne Illnesses

Apr 27, 2011, 3:27 PM

UPDATED — APRIL 28: The report has now been released, detailing valuable information about food safety for public health officials. NewPublicHealth also interviewed the report's lead author, Michael Batz, providing additional context and background.

ORIGINAL POST: Each week seems to bring another announcement about contaminated food. These contaminated products sicken millions — and kill thousands — of people every year.

Tomorrow, researchers from the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute will release a useful report to help health officials and others more accurately identify and address the most significant sources of food-borne illness.

The new report — supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — identifies the riskiest combinations of foods and disease-causing microorganisms, finding they cost the United States billions of dollars each year and represent a serious public health burden.

The Food Safety Modernization Act, passed last year by Congress, broadly directs the Food and Drug Administration to create a more prevention- and risk-based approach to food safety — but the law doesn’t spell out exactly how to accomplish this critical goal.

The findings of the new report will help FDA and other agencies prioritize limited resources to the most serious food safety problems, a preventive approach that will ultimately help protect consumers.

Even when food-borne pathogens do not result in death, they can still significantly burden Americans. These pathogens can saddle patients and families with medical care costs and lost productivity from sick days. Serious complications or disabilities — which bring additional expenses — can also result from illnesses related to contaminated food products.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.