New CAST Paper Examines Food Safety Strategies

January 28, 2004

For Immediate Release: January 28, 2004

New CAST Paper Examines Food Safety Strategies

What Consumers, Regulators, and Researchers Want to Know About Current and Future Intervention Strategies

January 28, 2004 . . .Washington, D.C. . . . The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) is releasing a new issue paper that examines intervention strategies for the microbiological safety of foods of animal origin. Growing awareness of food safety issues-highlighted by recent events involving livestock in the United States- underscores the concerns felt by the public, government regulatory agencies, and the food industry about the safety of foods derived from animals.

"Current intervention strategies need to be examined as they are practiced at the farm, production, processing, and retail levels," says Michael P. Doyle, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Quality Enhancement at the University of Georgia, and CAST Task Force Chair. "And additional strategies need to be identified to decrease the incidence of foodborne illnesses associated with foods contaminated by animal wastes."

The new issue paper, Intervention Strategies for the Microbiological Safety of Foods of Animal Origin, (Issue Paper No. 25) was written by a task force of nine authors and reviewed by four subject experts. Major topics addressed in the paper include

  • Microbiological safety of foods of animal origin during production;
  • Food processing strategies for manufactured foods of animal origin, both ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat;
  • Food safety initiatives in retailing;
  • Consumer interventions to enhance food safety; and
  • Challenges to applying food safety controls uniformly across all sectors of the food service industry.

"Consumers have never had more choices in terms of variety, value, nutrition, convenience, and quality," notes Teresa A. Gruber, CAST Executive Vice President. "Consumers are a significant force behind the current dramatic changes in the food-retailing business. But in order to make safe food-consumption choices and to apply appropriate food-handling practices in their homes, consumers must have factual scientific information and must understand the potential negative consequences of mishandling food. CAST is striving to make that type of information more available."

This new paper identifies products and practices that could provide important food safety enhancements in the retail and food service areas. For example, certain equipment manufacturers are producing "e-kitchens," where equipment is monitored continually on-site and remotely and the staff is notified quickly of equipment failures.

According to Doyle, the task force authors worked to examine both existing and future intervention strategies in the areas of food production, food processing, retail food marketing, and food service. The paper concludes with a list of 12 recommendations for development and application of new intervention strategies to decrease human illnesses attributed to foods derived from animals. Among the recommendations are the following:

  • A strategic approach, such as quantitative microbial risk assessments, is needed to identify critical points within the food continuum at which effective interventions will have the greatest impact on decreasing public health hazards.
  • Improving the safety of foods of animal origin needs to begin at the farm.
  • New intervention strategies that decrease public health hazards should receive expedited review by regulatory agencies.
  • New strategies for educating consumers must be used, possibly including mass media campaigns that capture people's attention and encourage behavioral change.

The full text of the paper Intervention Strategies for the Microbiological Safety of Foods of Animal Origin (Issue Paper No. 25) may be accessed on the CAST website at www.cast-science.org, along with many of CAST's other scientific publications. CAST is an international consortium of 38 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource, and related societal and environmental issues to its stakeholders-legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.