As food safety technologies and practices continue to evolve, incidence rates for foodborne illnesses in the United States have decreased by about one-third, says Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health. Simmons spoke this week at the annual meeting of the Dairy Farmers of America in Kansas City and stressed that only the world’s authorized regulatory and governmental authorities should maintain oversight for food safety and the availability of food production technologies.
In his white paper “Technology’s Role in the 21st Century, Making Safe, Affordable and Abundant Food a Global Reality,” Simmons said food producers worldwide play a critical role in the food safety effort. However, only the world’s authorized regulatory and governmental authorities — e.g., the United States USDA and FDA, EMA, CODEX, WHO, China’s Minister of Agriculture, Japan’s Food Safety Commission and similar agencies—should maintain ultimate authority for establishing, overseeing and enforcing strict food safety standards in all nations.
Simmons writes that data show their efforts are creating improvement. A recent report by the European Food Information Council shows food safety has improved significantly compared to 40 years ago, which EUFIC credits to “modern technological advancements” ranging from pasteurization to analytical tools that can measure undesirable substances in even minute amounts. In the United States, the FDA Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network tracked a one-third decrease in the number of foodborne illnesses between 1996 and 2009—to 34.8 incidents per 100,000 residents. To put it in context, 3,311 in 100,000 residents were involved in a motor vehicle crash in 2008.8
Simmons stressed that these regulating bodies must maintain control over the availability of technologies in the marketplace. “Their authority cannot be superseded by unregulated groups that make unjustified claims not based in fact,” he said in his report. “Entertaining these claims can result in marketplace confusion, loss of consumer confidence, and the establishment of unvalidated standards that can jeopardize the well-being of consumers, farm animals and the environment.”
Right now when the animal agriculture industry is under attack from a variety of activist groups, it’s important that these regulating bodies use appropriate and fact-based science on which to base their decisions that affect food production and food safety. Beef, dairy and swine veterinarians can play a crucial role with on-farm food safety as well as being involved in the scientific discussions on animal production, and they need to be at the table, so to speak, when issues arise and decisions need to be made in this arena.
Current technologies used in food animal production that also promote food safety include veterinary drugs use in a responsible manner. Losing some of these pharmaceutical technologies due to emotion-based regulations could have a large impact on the safety and efficiency of food production. Veterinarians are on the front lines of using pharmaceutical technologies and ensuring that they and their producer clients are using them in a judicious manner.
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Read a re-cap of Simmons’ DFA talk at DairyHerd.com here.