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Food Safety: A changing landscape in a global world

Image that reads Keeping food safe” A global responsibility. Contamination can occur at any point along the food chain.  Our food is grown all over the worldThe food supply in the United States is constantly evolving. U.S. consumers want convenience, choice, and diversity in the foods they eat. The U.S. is importing more food than ever before in order to meet these demands. In 2009, imported food accounted for 17% of food consumed by Americans (up from 15% in 2004).[1]

Our food travels a lot farther than it used to

Food production has become more globalized and the route it takes from farm to table is more complex. In order to satisfy the needs of Americans, much of our food is transported over longer distances and distributed across wider areas. For example, many fruits and vegetables that were only available during particular seasons are now available year round because they can be imported from other parts of the world. In 2013 alone, the United States imported $4.6 billion in fresh vegetables and $3.1 billion in fresh fruit (excluding bananas) from Mexico.[2]

A single point of contamination magnified by global distribution

Much of our food now takes a longer and more complicated path from the farm to our table. The food we eat may become contaminated with germs at any point along the production chain, be it from the environment on the farm, from the people harvesting crops, during transport and distribution, or at a grocery store. If something in the production chain goes wrong, people may get sick.

Global collaborations help match cases of illness or pinpoint the source of contaminated foods

During the summer of 2014, PulseNet detected several ill people with a rare DNA fingerprint of Salmonella. CDC and its federal and state partners launched an investigation into what was making these people sick. At the same time, the Public Health Agency of Canada was also investigating similar cases of Salmonella infection in several Canadian provinces. A collaborative investigation with Canada linked illnesses in both countries back to products that contained organic chia powder produced by a Canadian firm. The chia powder was produced in Canada, but was an ingredient in products that were further produced in the United States. Working collaboratively to link people infected with the same Salmonella germs across international borders was key to solving this outbreak and recalling the contaminated products to prevent further illnesses.

#SafeFood is a global responsibility

With more food being imported into the U.S. than ever before it is important that food safety is a global priority. Currently, the U.S. imported food supply depends on the effectiveness of food safety systems in other countries to ensure that these products are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working to strengthen the international food safety system by making certain imported foods meet the same safety standards as foods produced in the U.S. Countries with more sophisticated food safety systems have a responsibility to work with countries with developing systems to ensure safe food options for everyone.

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Posted in: Food Safety | HolidaysTagged: Food Safety | Safe Food | World Health Day | farm to plate | food supply chain | global food