WebMD Health News
Daniel J. DeNoon
Laura J. Martin, MD
Dec. 21, 2011 -- The USDA today announced two new rules to make U.S. beef safer.
The announcement accompanied the first report of the two-year-old Food Safety Working Group, led by the White House and staffed by agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Taking effect in 2012, the new rules:
"We have improved food safety in the last two years," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said at a news conference. "Our new standards for poultry establishments may prevent as many as 25,000 food-borne illnesses each year."
In 2009, the FDA issued an egg safety rule to help prevent salmonella outbreaks. The agency expects the rules to cut egg-related salmonella illnesses by 60%. That would prevent about 79,000 illnesses a year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at the news conference.
"We are well on our way to building a modern food safety system," Sebelius said. "Millions in the U.S. still suffer from food-borne illnesses each year. Thousands are hospitalized and too many die. Too often we find ourselves trying to track down the source of an outbreak once it happens rather than preventing it."
The report by the Food Safety Working Group is littered with the acronyms of subgroups and tools created to prevent, track, and respond to food-borne illnesses. The efforts include:
But whether these efforts will receive adequate federal and state funding remains a question. Most of the federal efforts depend on a partnership with state health departments, which face funding crises in many states.
"The work is not done, which is why the food safety group plans to continue its efforts," Vilsack said. "We are very pleased with the progress that has been made and are very proud of the work that has been done."
SOURCES:Joint HHS/USDA news conference, Dec. 21, 2011.News release, USDA.The Federal Food Safety Working Group Progress Report, December 2011.
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