Food Safety: FDA's Use of Faster Tests to Assess the Safety of Imported Foods - GAO Report
|Date:||Feb. 25, 2000|
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Food and drug law
FDA National Food Safety Initiative
FDA Produce and Imported Foods Safety Initiative
Although the U.S. food supply is reportedly among the safest in the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as 76 million cases of illness and as many as 5,000 deaths result from foodborne diseases each year. The challenge of ensuring the safety of the food supply is becoming even more difficult as Americans eat more foods imported from abroad. Such imports have more than doubled in the last seven years. This report examines the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) use of faster technologies--known as rapid tests--to screen and identify potentially unsafe imported foods, particularly at ports of entry, before they make it to grocery store shelves. Rapid tests can generally be completed in a day or two, offering a faster, cheaper, and more convenient alternative--without sacrificing reliability--to conventional laboratory tests that can take considerably longer to identify disease-causing pathogens in foods. This report describes (1) the rapid tests used to screen foods for pathogens, such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses; (2) FDA's use of these tests, particularly at ports of entry; and (3) the factors that may limit FDA's greater use of rapid tests for foodborne pathogens.