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Improve Food Safety and Public Health: Safeguard Public Health and Reduce the Risk of Food-Borne Diseases


The U.S. food supply is abundant, affordable, and conveniently delivered to the consumer. While generally  perceived as safe, public concern about food safety has increased. Each year in the U.S., an estimated 76 million persons contract foodborne illnesses with up to 5,000 deaths. A concern over foodborne illness and our food safety system prompted numerous activities including a report commissioned by Congress by the National Academy of Science and the President•s Food Safety Initiative in 1997. Since then, funding and various national initiatives involving collaborative activities have increased. CSREES and ARS have become leaders in food safety research, education, and extension by leveraging both their uniqueness and their ability to collaborate with each other.  ARS is the principal •in-house• research agency for USDA with > 2200 scientists in 100 locations. They maintain a close relationship with industry and other stakeholders so that when important methodologies are developed, the technologies can be transferred where needed in the field. CSREES is the primary extramural research agency with partnerships with the land grant university system so that CSREES may provide leadership in research, education, and extension programs. An integral part of CSREES is the National Research Initiative which is a competitive granting program. The following is a brief description of research, education, and extension efforts by both agencies to accomplish the three objectives under food safety.                                             

Objective 1:  Develop and demonstrate control procedures to eliminate hazards in animal foods from the farm and ranch to the grocery store

Through its food safety grant programs (the National Research Initiative, the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative, and the Initiative for the Future of Agriculture and Food Systems) as well as through special grants linked to other federal agencies, CSREES has developed important research programs. They include:

ARS scientists in various locations have developed these important technologies. They include:

Objective 2:  Improve effectiveness of pathogen destruction technologies

Important research grants from CSREES include:

ARS scientists have played a significant role in the development of these intervention strategies:

 Objective 3:  Reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance to public health

CSREES grants have produced significant findings in antimicrobial resistance. They include:

ARS is carrying out significant research programs on antimicrobial resistance at 3 locations, Athens, Ames and College Station. A coordinated research plan includes:

Summary of CSREES/ARS Collaborative Efforts

CSREES and ARS have been partners and strong participants in federal inter-agency food safety committees which have helped shape food safety policy.  They include the working groups that developed and wrote the Food Safety Strategic Plan and the work groups that helped develop and write the U.S. Public Health Plan to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance. Other continuing committees include the Risk Assessment Consortium and the Joint Institute for Food Safety Research Advisory Committee.  Both CSREES and ARS collaborated in FDA-CFSAN•s efforts to provide educational programs on the fresh fruit and vegetable guidelines.  This is an international effort and ARS and CSREES personnel have traveled to Mexico, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and other countries to provide training.

Multi-state regional research committees provide coordination of various expertises among different states to address specific problems.  Both ARS and CSREES are members of these various committees and provide leadership.  These committees are important mechanisms to create networking and produce collaborative research opportunities. For example, there was a 2 day workshop last November to help strengthen the integration between the S-263 multi-state research group (Enhancing Food Safety through Control of Foodborne Disease) and the SERA-IEG2 information exchange extension group (food safety).  This meeting provided the opportunity for researchers and extension specialists to exchange information. There was a communication link-up to extension educators in participating states to increase the dissemination of information.

With ARS taking the lead, both ARS and CSREES help provide support to USDA•s regulatory arm, the Food Safety and Inspection Service.  For example, both CSREES and ARS provided scientists that described relevant research during a FSIS public meeting on proposed regulations of Listeria labeling for retail meats.  CREES has linked FSIS with 7 different universities through special grants to provide HACCP training to small and very small processors. CSREES has participated in the joint ARS/FSIS research planning meetings to determine the direction of food safety research.  Finally, ARS scientists have been able to combine research monies from ARS and grants from CSREES to advance food safety research.

Food safety will continue to remain a high priority with consumers, industry, and government.  The research, education, and extension programs described above are a brief summary of the many activities, but they provide a framework for continued collaborations between CSREES and ARS.  This partnership benefits other federal agencies and will continue to lead to future successes in food safety activities.

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