Today's products are the result of many technological developments such as pasteurization, irradiation, and genetic engineering.Likewise, food distribution systems have changed greatly. In the United States and other countries, the system of obtaining food was highly localized before the twentieth century.
To improve the safety of the US food supply, in early 1997 President Clinton directed the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a food safety initiative.
C) seeks to address hazards that present the greatest risk, make the best use of public and private resources, increase collaboration between public and private organizations, and improve coordination in the government.
Although estimates vary greatly, there is agreement that foodborne illness is a serious problem.
In the United States, an estimated 81 million cases of foodborne illness may occur each year (Archer and Kvenberg, 1985), resulting in as many as 9,000 deaths (CAST, 1994).
Federal, state, and local governments play major roles in managing risks to protect the public from hazards in the food supply.
Regulatory agencies are empowered to prescribe rules, standards, and processes to control risks; to develop and maintain research programs to apply contemporary science and technology to safety decisions; to monitor risks in the food supply; and to provide information and education to all components of the food system.
(See Appendix B for a 1998 Congressional Research Service analysis of several proposals.) In addition, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recently developed which describes attributes of an effective food safety system (IFT, 1998).
These principles have been endorsed by 13 professional, scientific societies.
Recent outbreaks involving such items as Guatemalan raspberries, hamburger, ice cream, and cereal have raised concern over the adequacy of the current system to ensure the safety of the US food supply.
The GAO, public interest groups, and several members of Congress have suggested the consolidation of the existing federal food safety structure into a single food safety agency (GAO, 1997).