Recently, the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine (FVM) – a department of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – released a ten-year strategic plan that will cover the department’s activities through 2025. Strongly influenced by the Food Safety Modernization Act, passed by Congress in 2011, this new strategic plan covers all of FVM’s food and drug safety measures over the next decade.
The FVM’s Focus on Safety
FVM pays particular attention to ensuring compliance to the policies put forth by the FDA. As the Food Safety Modernization Act begins to take effect, FVM is aiding the industries it oversees in understanding the complicated regulations and helps usher the United States, as well as countries providing food and feed material to the United States, to navigate the prevention-based policies. FVM is also focused on public health and educating the public on nutrition and chemistry topics, empowering the people to make their own food decisions.
The strategic plan covers four major areas:
- Animal health
- Food safety
- Organizational excellence.
The food safety area has a goal of reducing public illnesses from food and feed material due to preventable contamination. Each year, millions of illnesses can be traced back to contamination of food and animal feed. These foods could be contaminated anywhere in the food-to-table cycle, including growing, storing, processing, and transporting the food.
The FVM’s primary effort is focused on reducing the number of illnesses by ensuring compliance to prevention-based plans at every step of the cycle, by pushing a food safety mentality that focuses on science-backed ideas, and by promoting the role the consumer plays in their own health.
For the parties to comply with the regulations, they must first understand them. The FVM plans to improve understanding by emphasizing communication and training to personnel to recognize and take precautions against chemical and microbiological hazards that can contaminate the food. Inspections will be performed by FVM and trained staff to help the industry achieve the goal of fewer illnesses from preventable contamination.
New Data-Driven Analysis and Regulatory Structure
Knowing about foodborne illness is an important step in preventing future illnesses. Another part of FVM’s wants to improve the data analysis surrounding foodborne illnesses so it can better predict cases and locate potential causes more quickly. It wants to increase the resources available to respond to public health issues along with encouraging companies to participate in voluntary corrective actions. Another key factor is communication. FVM wants to improve communication within the agency and with external participants.
While companies may face recalls or punitive actions, consumers may get sick, suffer lost wages, and potentially die from these illnesses. Consumers need to take an active role in their health, and FVM seeks to improve communication and outreach about ways to keep healthy. This can include things like proper cooking and storage temperatures. Research and data analysis will need to be done to determine the most effective way to reach consumers.
Another aspect of food safety is around feed additives and dietary supplements, which are not carefully monitored. FVM wants to increase regulations of these additives and supplements, making sure the components are inspected and accurately labeled in premarket analysis. Post-market surveillance will be driven by data for safety and health concerns. Good manufacturing practices, similar to those currently in place throughout the food industry, will need to be applied to the additives and supplements industries. These will help ensure a safe production environment where quality products can be produced, the strategic plan states.
FVM also stresses the importance of strengthening regulatory agencies and communication between agencies – not just here in the United States, but also abroad. This will help to make sure that all of America’s food and feed supply is safe for consumption, no matter where it was produced. By making food safety a requirement with our international business partners and encouraging the building of food safety facilities, the FVM hopes to not only improve the standards here, but across the globe.
The division of the FDA that is responsible for large parts of the Food Safety Modernization Act is the FVM. The Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2016 – 2025 incorporates the framework laid out by the Food Safety Modernization Act, and then goes further by explain how communication, training, testing, regulations, and international cooperation can help reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses from preventable contamination of our food and feed supply.