Report at a Glance
Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration
In an increasingly complex world, there is a higher risk of foodborne disease. Approximately 76 million foodborne illnesses occur each year in the United States, causing more than 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Foodborne diseases are caused by a variety of bacteria—such as Escherichia coli or Salmonella—viruses, parasites, or chemical residues. The severity of these diseases and the high rate of occurrence highlight the need to evaluate the current food safety system for its effectiveness at protecting the public’s health. Providing safe food requires the effort of many partners. While food safety is regulated by several agencies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees approximately 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including all produce, seafood, and cheeses.
Food safety experts and the public have criticized the FDA’s food safety system and questioned whether it properly safeguards Americans from foodborne diseases. Thus, Congress asked the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to examine the gaps in the current food safety system under the purview of the FDA and to identify the tools needed to improve food safety. Although the FDA recently created the Office of Foods to oversee and coordinate all food policy efforts within the agency, the FDA’s approach to food safety continues to be reactive, lacking a systematic focus on prevention. The IOM committee’s report, Enhancing Food Safety: The Role of the Food and Drug Administration, suggests that the FDA lacks a comprehensive vision for food safety and says it should change its approach in order to properly protect the nation’s food.