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    Three State and Local Organizations to Hold Food Safety Symposium

    The aim of the event is to better integrate state and local officials into the food safety system.

    The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) will hold a public symposium June 17 with The George Washington University (GWU) School of Public Health and Health Services in Washington.

    The three organizations represent state and local officials who work in the area of food safety protection, including foodborne illness surveillance and outbreak response, regulation and inspection of food processing and retail establishments, and food safety education.

    "The vision being developed at the federal level of a modern, risk-based food safety system that is effective in preventing foodborne illness depends on strengthening the roles and capacities of state and local agencies and improving coordination and collaboration among food safety officials at all levels of government," said GWU Research Professor Michael R. Taylor, who served formerly in senior management roles at the Food and Drug and Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Taylor is coordinating the new project.

    "Thousands of local public health authorities provide critical oversight through inspections, technical assistance, and education for food establishments such as restaurants and grocery stores to prevent foodborne illness," noted NACCHO member Scott Holmes, manager of the Environmental Public Health Division in the Lincoln-Lancaster County, Neb. Department of Health. "Any comprehensive national food safety reform must address the resource and other capacity needs that affect the success of local agencies in protecting people from foodborne illnesses."

    The symposium will bring together a broad variety of food safety experts to discuss current state and local food safety roles and ways to enhance them. Speakers will include USDA under secretary for food safety Richard Raymond, FDA associate commissioner for regulatory affairs Margaret Glavin, state and local food safety regulators (Joe Corby of New York and David Ludwig of Maricopa County, Ariz.), state and local health officials (David Bergmire-Sweat of North Carolina and Joseph Russell of Flathead County, Mont.), David Gombas of the United Fresh Produce Association, Bob Brackett of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    After the symposium, ASTHO and NACCHO will hold a workshop on July 1 to develop specific proposals for boosting state and local roles in foodborne illness surveillance and outbreak response, and AFDO will convene a workshop on July 14 to 15 at which participants will create proposals on food safety regulation and inspection at state and local levels.

    The proposals developed at the workshops -- which might include changes in law, policy, programs and resources, as well as other ideas for building an improved, nationally integrated food safety system -- will be discussed at a second public symposium in October.

    Members of the public can RSVP for the June 17 symposium by sending their names and organizations via e-mail to [email protected].

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