Speaking on behalf of the food processing industry at a public meeting on food safety, Kelly Johnston, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs and Communications for the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), stated that "accurate food safety statistics are vital to developing an effective strategy for enhancing the safety of our nation's food supply."
Johnston noted that "The deficiencies with current factual statistics related to food safety and foodborne illness are a persistent problem that impedes research and has a crippling effect on accurate risk assessment. Lacking unassailable data, numbers become the swampy domain of 'junk science' and agenda politics. Accurate statistics advance the discussion; floating estimates contaminate the debate."
On Friday, October 2, 1998, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency held a public meeting to discuss and begin development of a comprehensive strategic Federal food safety plan. The meeting follows the recent establishment, by Executive Order, of a President's Food Safety Council, which will be responsible for the development of this comprehensive food safety plan. NFPA was invited by the U.S. government to represent the U.S. food processing industry.
In his testimony, Johnston said that, "Any valid and effective food safety strategy must employ sound, proven, accepted, and objective scientific methods. Unless sound science serves as the basis for any comprehensive Federal food safety plan, any such program will lack integrity and will quickly degenerate into an unreliable system incapable of adequately protecting public health and safety."
Johnston stated that any national food safety strategy also must be risk-based. "If the system cannot automatically discern between real threats to the health of consumers and mere technical infractions, the allocation of resources will produce truly dangerous inconsistencies, shortfalls in protection, or worse," Johnston pointed out. "Prioritizing real or potential hazards and balancing the severity of the threats against the resources needed to combat them stands at the core of our efforts. I believe we can agree on and achieve something so basic and indispensable."
Johnston made the case that "The federal government does not stand alone in the battle against foodborne illness. The regulatory agencies overseeing food safety are a small part of a legion of U.S. scientists -- many employed by the food industry -- who are constantly working to enhance the safety of our nation's food supply. Any conscious failure to process and produce safe food would lead to such losses in reputation, customers, sales, and so forth as to be unthinkable. Free market incentives and a desire to process safe and enjoyable food can yield astonishing results."
NFPA is the voice of the $430 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.
Visit NFPA's Web site at www.nfpa-food.org. SOURCE National Food Processors Association interview with Johnston, or to shoot video footage in NFPA's Washington, D.C. laboratory, contact Timothy Willard, Senior Director of Communications, at 202-637-8060, or Jason Whiting, Director of Media Relations, at 202-639-5919./ CONTACT: Timothy Willard of the NFPA, 202-637-8060
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