How To Prevent Food-Borne Illness Outbreaks

CANADA - A food microbiologist with the University of Manitoba suggests approaches designed to prevent rather than react to problems within the food supply offer the greatest potential as a food safety mechanism, Bruce Cochrane writes.
calendar icon 1 December 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

Earlier this month a World Trade Organisation panel investigating complaints over US Country of Origin Labelling ruled the law discriminates against imported livestock and is inconsistent with American trade obligations.

Dr Rick Holley, a food microbiology professor with the University of Manitoba, acknowledges any effort to improve traceability would be of value when a food recall is necessary but where products from different countries are commingled, such as in the manufacture of sausage or ground beef, and that identity is lost Country of Origin Labelling has fallen short.

Dr Rick Holley-University of Manitoba

The issue of traceability is an important one in terms of the need to have that kind of information when there is a food safety issue, a foodborne illness outbreak, but may take is that in terms of priority, things that need attention that this is not a high priority issue.

There are some fixes that need to be made in the food safety system both in the United States and Canada that have more important elements, elements associated with foodborne illness surveillance, better record keeping, opportunities to react in a proactive manner to changes in frequencies with which foodborne illnesses occur and emphasis being placed on adoption of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point like programmes by industry and interrogating those systems to make sure that they're operated properly to prevent problems from occurring.

That way you don't need to rely on traceability in order to get you out of a problem.

You prevent the problem from happening in the first place.

Dr Holley observes, although the data is limited, it shows no correlation between frequency of foodborne illness outbreaks and the country where that food originated.

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