Monday, July 16, 2012

Survey Spotlights Food Safety Views, GMA Recruits More Food-Safety Experts

From the get-go food safety has been all about food handling and food preparation. But in case some didn’t get the memo, the International Food Information Council Foundation in 2006 endeavoured to track food safety practices in the U.S. population amid growing food-safety incidents and outbreaks of food-borne illnesses.

Because proper food and food-product handling is essential in preventing food-borne illness outbreaks, many restaurant owners now require a food handlers license card or a Learn2Serve food safety certification license as a hiring requisite. Unfortunately, weak links still remain in the human food-supply chain.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, food contamination causes 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States. Yearly also, food contamination results in about a thousand food-borne disease outbreaks across America.

The landmark national study was initiated to understand how Americans view important food-safety, nutrition, and health-related topics. The overriding goal was to assemble good data to equip food-safety authorities to educate people on how to stay safe from food-borne illnesses such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

"Because only safe food can be nutritious food, this research is an important part of the applied research needed to ensure a wholesome food supply for the United States," said an article on the foundation's Food and Health Survey, 2006-2010, as quoted by The survey appears in the June 2012 issue of the peer-reviewed Food Protection Trends.

Among the unexpected findings of the study is the significant decline between 2006 and 1010 in the following key food-safety practices: hand washing, separating raw meat and poultry from ready-to-eat food products, washing cutting boards, cooking to required temperatures, properly storing leftovers, and following microwave cooking instructions.

As the food industry continues to be held back by food recalls and the public to suffer food-borne illness outbreaks, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced this June that it has availed itself of the expertise of two food-safety authorities to bolster its food-safety efforts, a move that at once acknowledges the prevalence of food-safety problems, the need to press more scientific muscle into the fight for safer food on the American dinner plate, and the importance of food handler certification or a food safety certification training in protecting public health.

The new additions to the GMA food-safety staff—Melinda Hayman, Ph.D., as the group's director of microbiology and William Koshute, M.S., as a chemistry scientist—are "part of GMA's continued commitment to strengthen its scientific and technical capabilities in critically important areas of food safety," explained Dr. George Dunaif, GMA’s vice president of Food Safety and Technical Services.

GMA said that Dr. Hayman brings with her a wealth of experience as a food microbiologist with over 10 years in the area of food safety under government and industry appointments. William Koshute has extensive experience in food biotechnology, among other areas of expertise, and was a pharmaceutical research scientist for Sanofi-Aventis, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, before joining GMA.
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