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The U.S. Food Supply: The Need to Protect Biological and Nutritional Safety

  • Julia A. Wolfson
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Julia A. Wolfson, PhD, MPP, Department of Health Management and Policy, 1415 Washington Heights, SPH II, M3240, Ann Arbor MI 48109
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan

    Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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  • Andrew D. Jones
    Affiliations
    Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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  • Martin A. Philbert
    Affiliations
    Deans Office, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan;

    Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Published:October 30, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2017.08.021
      Ensuring the safety of national food supplies is one of the most important mandates of government. The Trump administration’s budget priorities and their recent actions to delay or reverse implementation of key food policies constitute a threat to the safety of the nation’s food system. In a complex, industrial, and globally connected food system, in which the threat of intentional tampering of the food supply (i.e., bioterrorism) looms, the need to ensure a safe food supply for everyone has never been greater. Although the U.S. is a leader in food safety,
      • Le Vallée J.-C.
      • Charlebois S.
      2014 World Ranking: Food Safety Performance.
      outbreaks of foodborne illness are not uncommon (864 in 2014 resulting in 13,246 illnesses, 712 hospitalizations, and 21 deaths), and foodborne illnesses (not tied to a known specific outbreak) annually sicken one in six Americans (resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths).
      CDC
      Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks, United States, 2014, Annual Report.
      The Food Safety Modernization Act,
      U.S. Food and Drug Administration
      Food safety modernization act (FSMA). Public Law.
      passed in 2011, requires food companies to minimize contamination risks to ensure a biologically safe food supply—namely, a food supply that doesn’t cause acute illness as a result of microbial contamination. This is particularly important because of the broad diversity of global sources for the U.S. food supply.

      U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. U.S. Food Imports. www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/us-food-imports/us-food-imports/. Published 2016. Accessed July 7, 2017.

      When outbreaks of foodborne illnesses occur, they rightly receive widespread attention, further incentivizing the food industry to make investing in minimizing biological food safety risks a priority.
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