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American Dietetic Association Releases Position Paper On Food, Water Safety

August 1, 2009

The American Dietetic Association has released an updated position paper on food and water safety that reviews the current situation in this country, identifies new tools that can help decrease illness and encourages continued research, education and technological advances to keep the food and water supply safe.

ADA’s position paper, published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, represents the Association’s official stance on food and water safety:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that the public has the right to a safe food and water supply. The Association supports collaboration among food and nutrition professionals, academics, representatives of the agriculture and food industries and appropriate government agencies to ensure the safety of the food and water supply by providing education to the public and industry, promoting technological innovation and applications and supporting further research.

ADA’s position paper was written by registered dietitians Julie A. Albrecht, professor of nutrition and health sciences at the University of Nebraska; and Debe Nagy-Nero, director of quality assurance, nutrition and safety at The Holland Inc., Vancouver, Wash. The paper reviews numerous aspects of food and water safety including:

* The current situation in the United States

* An updated section on government programs initiated under the Food Safety Initiative with a report of their progress to date

* Background information on continued problems of food safety in the U.S. food supply

* Resources for food and nutrition experts to address the problems

* The role of food and nutrition professionals such as registered dietitians in food and water safety, including examples of how they can positively affect the safety of the supply.

ADA’s position paper cites studies that find the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world, “yet food-related illnesses impose an increasingly important public health problem. It is estimated that 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths result from foodborne disease annually, with a cost of $23 billion. High-risk populations (the very young; elderly; pregnant; and immunocompromised due to medical conditions such as diabetes, renal diseases and chemical and radiological treatments) experience the most serious consequences of foodborne illnesses,” the authors write.

“New food and water safety issues evolve as the environment changes,” according to the authors. “Recent food- and waterborne illnesses have occurred in new settings and/or unique foods not traditionally associated with foodborne illness outbreaks. New issues associated with food safety and security that have emerged support the need for continued education and research.”

The authors cite “powerful tools” developed by the U.S. government, such as FoodNet and PulseNet, to detect food- and waterborne illness outbreaks in the United States. “These government programs have provided the data to enhance public policy and educational programs such as FightBac! Mandatory and voluntary adoption of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points in the foodservice and processing industries have contributed to a decrease in foodborne illness outbreaks from traditional foods and some microorganisms usually associated with foodborne illnesses.”

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