How our food safety system needs to change

AFDO Executive Director Steven Mandernach explains how his organisation is enacting to change to make our food even safer.

The Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) has made a significant effort over the last year aimed on bending the foodborne illness curve in the United States. The organisation is focused on recalls, a highly functioning and efficient integrated food safety system, and retail food safety.

Background on the US food regulatory system

In the US, the food safety system typically involves federal, state and local levels of regulation throughout the process. For non-meat and poultry manufactured foods, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulatory authority for those processors engaged in interstate commerce and, typically, there is concurrent jurisdiction with the state where the manufacturing is taking place.

Much of the FDA’s food inspection work (usually 60 percent) is accomplished by state inspectors under contract by the FDA. The administration and states normally work together during manufactured food events, as often the states have more flexibility and can implement compliance actions more quickly, including suspension or revocation of licenses.

The FDA does not have regulatory authority in retail foods however, including food services (restaurants, caterers, etc), grocery stores and supermarkets, and convenience stores. While the FDA does issue the Food Code, states and local agencies ultimately have full responsibility for retail regulation. In 13 states, the state is exclusively in charge; while in 20 states, local authorities are almost exclusively responsible; the remaining states have some type of mixed system with state and local agencies both engaged in retail food safety.


In early April, AFDO released a three-year study focused on US Food and Drug Administration class 1 recalls.

A multifaceted stakeholder workgroup was charged with providing the recommendations, which focused on improving public health outcomes, such as mitigating the potential for illness, in an efficient and timely manner.

The report identifies some low-hanging fruit that includes: