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FDA “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” - Mark Sestak, AFDO Vice-President, Comments

Posted on October 21, 2019

Blog: Association of Food & Drug Officials (AFDO)

My name is Mark Sestak, and I’m the Vice President of the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) and a Public Health Official from the State of Alabama. On behalf of AFDO, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to participate in today’s public meeting. AFDO represents food and medical product regulatory programs at the local, state, and federal levels. The Association was founded in 1896 and actively collaborated with Dr. Harvey Wiley to secure the passage of the Pure Foods Act of 1906.

The Era of Smarter Food Safety contains many components that relate to the work routinely conducted by state and local programs. We are particularly excited that retail food has been included as a key element in this initiative. Many opportunities for modernization exist in the retail arena. We believe the food regulatory system must be more agile in an era of smarter food safety and more able to quickly address new and innovative technologies, production techniques, preparation methods, and distribution systems. With the speed at which emerging areas are adopted by both industry and consumers nationwide, waiting years for regulatory answers is no longer acceptable.

Lastly, investigation techniques for foodborne illness must be modernized to focusing on a root cause analysis approach that uses the best investigative techniques. In this age of whole genome sequencing, culture independent diagnostic tests (CIDT’s), and instant information sharing the regulatory community must be able to quickly investigate and find the cause of foodborne illness and prevent additional outbreaks. Particularly, retail investigative methods have not kept pace with those in other areas of the food system. In 2017, CDC reported 68% of the foodborne outbreaks and 44% of all foodborne illnesses were associated with restaurants. In conjunction with several state programs and the CDC, AFDO has begun to address this issue by developing and delivering a hands-on environmental sampling training course specifically for retail foodborne outbreaks. Currently, there is more demand for the course than could possibly be filled.

With FDA, state and local agencies, industry, consumers and other stakeholders working together as partners in this effort we are confident that an Era of Smarter Food Safety can be achieved.

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