Our priorities include the food safety programs run by the federal government. We provide research-based recommendations and analysis to the agencies that regulate food safety and investigate foodborne illness outbreaks, and to the lawmakers who provide oversight and funding for these programs.

Enhance Meat and Poultry Safety

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s meat and poultry safety program is governed by outdated laws that do not adequately protect the public from harmful contaminants that cause greatest concern today. For example, the agency’s inspection methods were developed in the early 1900s and are not sufficient to detect microscopic hazards in our food such as bacteria and viruses. Pew is working with public health experts, consumer advocacy groups, food producers, retailers, and other stakeholders to promote the adoption of science-based food safety policies and to modernize federal meat and poultry inspection laws. See our collection of research and resources on this topic.

Improve Systems to Determine and Learn From the Root Causes of Outbreaks

To reduce foodborne illnesses, businesses and government food safety agencies need to understand how contamination occurred in the past and then develop strategies to prevent recurrences. But investigations that can provide these answers—often called root-cause analyses—are not consistently conducted for foodborne disease outbreaks. There is also no mechanism for sharing lessons learned among food safety agencies and with the food industry. Pew is working with these stakeholders and others to develop standard protocols for root-cause analyses and to ensure that lessons learned inform efforts to improve companies’ food safety strategies and government policies.

Grilling
Grilling
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The U.S. Meat Safety System Just Turned 111—It’s Time to Modernize

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Enacted with President Theodore Roosevelt’s signature on June 30, 1906, the Federal Meat Inspection Act was a leap forward for beef and pork safety, and Congress applied essentially the same inspection rules to poultry five decades later. But the laws have barely been updated since. As a result, despite vast changes in the health risks that these products pose to consumers, the federal meat and poultry oversight system remains designed for threats that it faced many years ago, not those that exist now and into the future. The system also does not adequately employ new technologies, such as the latest advances in microbiological testing, to improve food safety.

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Young spinach
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In-Depth Investigations of Foodborne Outbreaks Can Help Prevent New Ones

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For those who produce our food and oversee its safety, understanding how and why a foodborne disease outbreak occurred is a vital step in avoiding future ones and reducing the estimated 48 million illnesses caused each year by Salmonella, E. coli, and other microorganisms. The Pew Charitable Trusts is working with federal food safety officials, representatives of food companies, and other experts to develop best practices for root cause analyses, a powerful but underused method to learn from past failures.