In a "Perspective" piece published online by the New England Journal of Medicine Tuesday, May 26, the new Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., and Principal Deputy Commissioner of FDA, Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., wrote about their vision for the future of how the FDA will operate under the Obama administration. 

In the piece, the authors promote bringing regulated industries, patient and consumer groups, and others to the table to discuss solutions to approval delays and safety issues.  They wrote, “We expect to collaborate with other federal agencies and outside partners to address problems that the agency cannot solve alone.”  Consumer groups such as S.T.O.P. and CFI will welcome more opportunities to converse with FDA leaders about food safety issues, particularly the prevention of foodborne illness. 

Notably, the new FDA Commissioner and Principal Deputy Commissioner state:

From our vantage point, the recent salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated peanut butter represented far more than a sanitation problem at one troubled facility. It reflected a failure of the FDA and its regulatory partners to identify risk and to establish and enforce basic preventive controls. And it exposed the failure of scores of food manufacturers to adequately monitor the safety of ingredients purchased from this facility.

In a USA Today article titled, "Kellogg scrutinizes food suppliers due to peanut recall," Julie Schmidt wrote:

Kellogg (K) says it’s reviewing how it qualifies suppliers after a food-safety auditor gave superior ratings to the Georgia peanut plant now at the center of one of the nation’s largest food recalls.

The auditor, paid for by Peanut Corp. of America, checked PCA’s Blakely, Ga., plant in 2007 and 2008 and gave it superior ratings both times, says Kris Charles, Kellogg spokeswoman.

Schmidt’s story continued: 

The audit, which Kellogg requires for ingredient suppliers, checked PCA’s compliance with good manufacturing, sanitation and other practices, Kellogg says. The audit was paid for by PCA.

Bill Marler, attorney for victims of foodborne illness and food safety advocate, agreed with the new FDA Commissioner before the article was ever written.  See his March 8, 2009 blog post titled, Private Third-Party Audits or Government Audits – Choose Your Poison.  

This Perspective piece is a good sign to anyone concerned about the nation’s food supply and food safety in general.  FDA has plans to collaborate and create a safer, more efficient food safety system.  Hopefully the government agencies it plans to partner with are on the same page.