NCDA&CS AgFIRST! event draws more than 300 to Raleigh
Ensuring the safety of North Carolina’s food supply requires teamwork across the board, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said at the fourth annual AgFIRST! symposium in August.
Speaking to more than 300 farmers, food processors and retailers and government officials at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, Troxler said incidents such as the salmonella outbreak that has sickened 1,400 people in 43 states demonstrate the need for cooperation.
“We have seen recently just how much of an impact a contaminated product can have when it enters the food chain,” Troxler said. “Not only can it cause serious health issues, but it can destroy consumer confidence.”
U.S. tomato growers lost an estimated $200 million after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers that eating certain kinds of tomatoes could carry the risk of becoming ill with salmonella poisoning, he said.
“We’ve got to have a plan to ensure that growers and food companies can return to business,” Troxler said. Without it, domestic food production will continue to drop and the United States will become more dependent on foreign countries for food, something Troxler said he does not want to see happen.
Food safety begins on the farm, with safe production practices, he said. Packers and shippers must handle food properly.
Grocery stores and restaurants must also handle and prepare food responsibly. Even consumers must do their part by taking proper care when handling and preparing food at home.
Government agencies, particularly at the state and local levels, need the resources to prevent tainted foods from entering the market, Troxler said.
Other speakers included Dr. David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods. Acheson said the agency’s plan for food protection focuses on prevention, intervention and response.
The FDA wants to prevent foodborne contamination by promoting increased corporate responsibility; identifying food vulnerabilities and assessing risks; and expanding the understanding and use of effective risk-reduction measures, Acheson said.
Intervention focuses on risk-based inspections and sampling within the food chain, and improving detection of problems.
FDA also wants to respond to events more quickly and efficiently, and increase communication with other federal, state and local agencies, Acheson said.