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FDA Touts Food Safety and Security Successes; Sets Sights on New Product Development

NEW YORK - In a speech before members of the Institute of Food Technologists, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration summarized the agency's accomplishments in strengthening food safety and food security and also announced that the FDA's upcoming mission would be involvement in the development of new products.

"Essentially, we want to use our regulatory tools, insights and experience to facilitate the development of new products. The way we want to achieve this goal is by reducing and managing the risks that affect a manufacturer's decisions whether to develop a new product, or not," Dr. Lester M. Crawford, acting FDA commissioner, said yesterday at the institute's annual conference in Las Vegas.

Reflecting on the challenges that have been facing the FDA and the food industry in the course of the past year, Crawford assured the audience that the government has undertaken wide-ranging steps that have strengthened food safety and security. For instance, he said, as of June 24, 109,000 foreign firms have complied with the government's registration requirement, which constitutes more than half of the 208,000 food facilities registered so far.

Crawford indicated that addressing the hazards of bioterrorism and other food-related issues, such as obesity, are top of mind for the FDA and make up almost half of his priority agenda. The task of improving the safety, quality and variety of the 80% of America's food supply that falls under its jurisdiction is central to the FDA, he said.

In addition to food safety and food security, Crawford also devoted a great deal of his speech to what he intimated to be the enemy within, the national obesity crisis. He said the creation of the Obesity Working Group last year, which included participation of experts from academia and government agencies, was worthwhile.

"In 1992, fewer than 56 percent of Americans were overweight, and fewer than 23 percent were obese. Today, 65 percent of all Americans are overweight, and over 30 percent are obese. Children and adolescent obesity rate is double of two decades ago. In 1992, the obesity-associated mortality was 300,000 a year; today, it is 100,000 higher," he said.

For more on Crawford’s speech, see the Friday, July 16, edition of ID Report

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