by Marion Nestle
May 20 2011

FDA’s focus on preventing food safety problems

Michael Taylor, FDA’s associate commissioner for foods, gave a major speech yesterday at the George Washington University School of Public Health.

In it, he talked about the origin and effectiveness of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) controls for preventing food safety problems.  HACCP, he explained, works just like other aspects of public health practice.  It requires:

• understanding the specific food safety hazards that could affect a particular food production operation,

• devising and implementing scientifically validated controls to minimize the hazards,

• monitoring the implementation of preventive controls to verify effectiveness, and

• making corrections and adjustments as needed, based on experience.

He then went on to say how FDA plans to put the Food Safety Modernization Act into action:

We are well on our way to developing a proposed produce safety rule that addresses areas such as employee hygiene, water quality, soil amendments, and animals in the growing area, as FSMA mandates.

In food facilities, such as processing and packaging plants, we will be proposing rules that are grounded in the widely embraced principles of preventive process control for food safety, similar to HACCP.

The law requires each facility to… (1) evaluate the hazards that could affect food safety, (2) specify what preventive steps, or controls, to put in place to minimize or prevent these hazards, (3) specify how the facility will monitor these controls to ensure they are working, (4) maintain routine records of monitoring, and (5) specify what actions the facility will take to correct problems that arise.

For example, in a facility that produces peanut butter, factors such as  ingredient safety, sanitation, and cross contamination would have to be considered. After the outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium in peanut butter in 2008 and 2009, which caused 714 cases of illness, the company had to reevaluate the hazards in its facilities so this wouldn’t happen again.

Such review and correction – and a sharp focus on specific hazards – will become the norm under a system of preventive controls.

Taylor outlined FDA’s vision for preventive controls from farm to table.  Now, if Congress will just give it the resources to do all this, we might actually have a food safety system that functions.

  • Daniel K. Ithaca, NY

    Did he outline the plan to get rid of the factory farming system that is a scourge to public health and the environment ?
    Soon, perhaps.

  • Doc Mudd

    I think that everyone can agree that when corporations and government agree on best practices that the optimum outcomes for the health of Americans are assured. I for one thank the FDA for getting back in the game on food safety after snoozing for years on this issue. It is good to see that the time has come for the FDA to stop pandering to the lobbying by the less food-safety-enthusiastic members of the agrobusiness corporate donor elite. I for one applaud the FDA for doing what is right for the US citizen’s health and not just the pocketbook of congressmen and women’s election campaigns.

  • Cecily

    Hey, WTF? I thought Doc Mudd was finally blocked to make this a more perfect anti-corporate echo chamber website. How can we keep the message pure if this jerk Doc Mudd keeps popping up and peeing in our Kool Aid? Anyone who disagrees with us is rude and should be silenced!

  • Michael Bulger

    No posters are blocked from commenting on this blog. Very few posts have been moderated in the history of Those were almost exclusively due to spam and pornography, if I recall correctly.

  • Suzanne

    I think Doc’s virtual ghost writer is at it again.

  • Jessica

    Yay for the FDA. Now if they can just move more quickly than molasses, maybe our citizens could trust the food supply again. I am just happy to see something being done to protect us, for once. Too bad so many people had to get sick before it happened, but then again the government doesn’t really seem to think ahead, only deal with issues as they pop up. It’s a good thing we don’t all behave that way, or nothing would ever be done properly.

  • Harry Hamil

    How does Michael Bulger know that all his assertions about this blog are true? Does he work for Dr. Nestle moderating Food Politics?

    I do know that the comment I submitted defending myself when Dr. Nestle selectively quoted me ( was immediately posted and then, later, was no longer there. The fact that it was neither spam nor pornography can be judged by everyone as it was allowed to stand when I reposted it recently ( I can also attest to the fact that earlier I pointed it removal out in a later post on the same blog and no one contacted me to trying to find what I had sent in.

    I don’t call for the blocking of “Doc Mudd,” per se. I call for her/his/its unmasking and the noted deletion of all personal attacks, etc. made under that name. In other words, I call for Dr. Nestle to institute a policy comments like that of Grist.