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    FDA Outlines New Food Protection Plan

    Claiming it's made "significant progress in protecting the food supply" in the last year, FDA unveiled further details of its plan.

    Following years of disparagement by critics for its responses to an alarming rate of food safety outbreaks and contaminated imports, the Food and Drug Administration today unveiled details for a three-tiered plan, along with a report that contends the agency is making progress in overhauling the nation's food supply chain.

    The FDA's Food Protection Plan report released today outlines strategies for prevention, intervention and response, and is designed to address food safety and food defense for both domestic and imported products, the agency said. It incorporates changes in policy and practice that FDA first outlined in an earlier version of the Food Protection Plan in November 2007 -- seven months prior to the agency coming under fire by the Government Accountability Office for failing to provide details on the costs or specific strategies for carrying out the plan.

    "Science and 21st century technologies help drive the FDA's efforts to transform our food safety efforts from the Food Protection Plan into a reality," said the agency's commissioner of food and drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach. "Every day, the FDA is working with foreign countries, state and local governments, regulated industry and consumer groups to ensure the safety of the food supply. We also continue to work with members of Congress to achieve new authorities requested in the Food Protection Plan."

    The central goal of FDA's stepped up food safety efforts center on "radically redesign[ing] the process," Dr. David Acheson, the agency's associate commissioner for foods, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. For imported food, Acheson said the agency's primary focus will aim to detect tainted products during the production process rather than after they enter the country.

    "We cannot simply rely on picking the ball up at the point of entry," said Acheson, noting that the FDA's overhaul is well under way.

    Among the agency's ongoing objectives to beef up food safety includes hiring at least 130 employees to conduct inspections and collect samples; approving the use of irradiation for iceberg lettuce and spinach to reduce the risk from pathogens and opening offices in other countries to improve the monitoring of food exported to the United States.

    The review the Food Protection Plan, visit: www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/advance/food/plan.html.

    To review the entire one-year summary of progress under the Food Protection Plan, visit: www.fda.gov/oc/initiatives/advance/food/progressreport1108.html.

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