More Inspections Won't Stop Food Contamination



    ASQ Quarterly Quality Report Finds Prevention is Key

    MILWAUKEE, June 19 /CNW/ - Eliminating outbreaks of foodborne illness is
possible but it won't happen by increasing inspections alone, say food safety
experts in the latest Quarterly Quality Report from the American Society for
Quality (ASQ), the world's leading authority on quality improvement. The
answer, the report finds, is in prevention.

    "The problem is that we can't inspect the defect out of the product,"
says Steve Wilson, chief quality officer for the U.S. Commerce Department and
ASQ board member. That's because more than half of reported foodborne
outbreaks cannot be attributed to any specific microorganism by current
diagnostic methods, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). "Since
we each can't have our own food tasters - like the medieval nobles did - our
best option is to take more proactive steps in earlier stages of food
production," notes Wilson. Other experts agree.

    Key trends are pushing the industry toward a more preventative approach
to food safety, according to John Surak, a food safety consultant and member
of ASQ's Food, Drug and Cosmetic Division who works with major food
manufacturers around the U.S.

    "Consolidation of food processing to fewer plants with increased output
has guaranteed that if you're going to have a glitch, it's going to be a big
one," says Surak. "More health-conscious consumers demanding ready-to-eat
fresh fruits and veggies year-round also increase pressure for the industry to
look at new ways to grow, harvest and process safe produce."

    Preventative Measures Needed

    What preventative steps can the industry take to reduce risks?
Participating in good quality practices is one solution, according to Janet
Raddatz, vice president of quality and food safety systems at Sargento Foods.
Sargento uses good manufacturing practices (GMP) and HACCP (Hazard Analysis
and Critical Control Point), a quality system that controls potential
physical, chemical and microbial hazards in food production.

    "We've voluntarily applied these systems because they make good sense,"
says Raddatz. "FDA isn't requiring anyone to do it - we're policing
ourselves."

    ASQ's quality report identifies other high-impact actions that experts
say can make a major difference including:

    1. Reinforce Maintenance Procedures. Constant reinforcement of personnel
training and hygiene practices, cleaning sanitation and maintenance, effective
recall programs, provisions for safe water supply and product handling are all
essential.

    2. Emphasize Consumer Education. Improper proper food handling at home
and at retail food establishments accounts for more reported cases of
foodborne illness than does failure at the processing level.

    3. Strengthen Regulatory Agencies in High Risk Areas. In today's world
where deliberate contamination of food is a very real threat, it's important
for our nation's regulatory agencies to increase protections against this type
of potential disaster as well as accidental contamination.

    4. Increased Diligence by Food Companies. The recent sickening of pets
from toxic ingredients blended into pet foods was more a failure of corporate
supplier quality programs than a failure of regulatory systems.

    5. More effective inspection - not more inspection. Inspection resources
are limited and need to be targeted where they are needed most. Food producers
and processors - domestic and foreign - that don't comply with federal
standards and those dealing with higher-risk food should receive closer
evaluation.

    Please visit http://www.asq.org/quality-report/reports/200706.html to
view the complete Quality Report.

    The American Society for Quality, www.asq.org, is the world's leading
authority on quality. With more than 93,000 individual and organizational
members, the professional association advances learning, quality improvement
and knowledge exchange to improve business results, and to create better
workplaces and communities worldwide. As champion of the quality movement, ASQ
offers technologies, concepts, tools and training to quality professionals,
quality practitioners and everyday consumers, encouraging all to Make Good
Great(R). ASQ has been the sole administrator of the prestigious Malcolm
Baldrige National Quality Award since 1991. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis.,
the 61-year-old organization is a founding partner of the American Customer
Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a prominent quarterly economic indicator, and also
produces the Quarterly Quality Report.




For further information:

For further information: American Society for Quality Megan Coulomb,
800-248-1946 mcoulomb@asq.org or Christel Henke, 414-332-2933
chenke@hansondodge.com

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AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR QUALITY

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