The study was produced by the Food Safety Research Consortium (FSRC), a group of university-based research institutions, based at the University of Florida in Gainesville, that is working on initiatives to improve the nation’s food safety system. The group’s projects include the development of analytical and decision tools to help guide interventions and resource allocation. The new report was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Assess the costs and benefits of proposed changes The report lists several examples of shortcomings in the food safety information system. It says that government and industry lack research plans on how to address contamination in produce and that planning for the FoodNet system, which collects foodborne illness data, has not involved food-industry risk managers. Analyzing information gaps May 22, 2008 (CIDRAP News) A team of food safety researchers, flanked by federal, state, and industry officials, today unveiled a sweeping report on how food safety information is shared and called for new federal policies to make the system more transparent and useful. “For all actors in the food safety systempublic and privatethe effectiveness of what they do depends on the quality of the information they have on potential hazards and how to minimize them,” the FSRC noted in the report’s introduction. Authors of the report are Michael Taylor, professor of health policy at George Washington University, and Michael Batz, executive director of the FSRC and head of food safety programs at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute in Gainesville. Prioritizing information needs Establishing a gateway Web site that could connect the network of food safety databases If government agencies and the food industry could somehow pool their data on chemical and microbial contamination, “this data would provide a much more robust picture of the nature and distribution of hazards across the food supply than we have today,” the authors wrote. To support more information sharing, stakeholders need incentives and the federal government should take a lead role to establish policy changes, Taylor and Batz asserted. Though some federal legislative proposals call for putting all federal food safety functions in one agency, the authors said their suggestions don’t depend on that reform measure, because such unification wouldn’t solve all of the information-sharing problems. “The need for improvement extends well beyond federal agencies,” they wrote. Taylor and Batz concluded that though there are no quick cure-alls for improving the flow of food safety information, they are buoyed by stakeholders’ high interest in removing some of the roadblocks. Taylor and Batz based their evaluation of the nation’s food safety information systems on the results of four workshops that were attended by public health and food safety experts, government officials, industry representatives, researchers, and consumers. “We believe that lasting solutions must respect these institutional realities and must include mechanisms that facilitate diverse institutions working together in new ways,” they wrote. Seek regular input from all food safety participants Identify legislative changes needed to ease the flow of information The report suggests establishing a food safety information system council, housed in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), composed of senior food safety officials from key federal agencies and state and local departments. With a budget of $25 million the council would: See also: Launching a food safety epidemiology user group to ensure that data from publicly funded epidemiology efforts are accessible and timely Prioritize, plan, and coordinate actions to improve the collection and flow of food safety information Compiling a database of past and future food safety research activities However, Taylor and Batz wrote that much of the food safety information system is in “stove pipes” that are isolated and inaccessible to other users. They attribute the fragmentation to a variety of causes, including regulatory constraints, intellectual property concerns, and a variety of funding sources. They also found that food safety agencies are overburdened with competing priorities and responsibilities. Food Safety Research Consortium report on improving the nation’s food safety information infrastructure Easing access to industry food safety information Increasing access to information from publicly funded food safety research In addition, the report calls for a food safety information system stakeholder forum that would advise the new council and help implement new initiatives such as: More effective communication between food safety groups is need to ensure safety and reduce risks, since food production and distribution over the past decades have become increasingly complex, the authors wrote. At the same time, technology for collecting, managing, and sharing data has also advanced and has the potential to improve food safety, they said. Report annually to Congress The 129-page report, Harnessing Knowledge to Ensure Food Safety: Opportunities to Improve the Nation’s Food Safety Information Infrastructure, was released at a briefing at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and is available on the group’s Web site.
For Christian Santana, Friday’s inaugural USC Pridefest was more than just another festival held in the McCarthy Quad.USC’s first-ever Pridefest took place Friday and featured free HIV testing, a clothing donation drive, a bounce house and other activities. Tyler Kowta | Daily Trojan“I’m pretty open about my sexuality, but it took a long time to get here,” said Santana, a senior majoring in psychology who attended the event. “And as someone who was once in that position where you may not feel 100 percent comfortable, even just walking by something like this, it’s empowering.”USC Pridefest brought color and vibrance to McCarthy Quad, supplying students with free crêpes from Crêpes Bonaparte, ice cream sandwiches from a Coolhaus food truck and a wide array of activities of expression. A large rainbow flag was spread across the grass, and attendees sported miniature flags on their hats and backpacks.Hal Pan, the assistant director of the USC Queer and Ally Student Assembly, helped organize this USG and QuASA co-sponsored event.“It’s a very common practice in queer communities to have a Pridefest, but those usually happen in the summer when people are away from school and perhaps back in communities where they’re not as out and they can’t have as many friends to celebrate with,” said Pan, a sophomore majoring in arts, technology and the business of innovation. “So we wanted to provide them with an opportunity to just celebrate identity and have that Pridefest experience here on campus.”Pridefest also featured bounce houses and over a dozen tables of arts and crafts activities, including button-making, portrait-drawing, temporary tattoos and wax creations by USC Lambda LGBT Alumni Association. The festival also set up information booths from LGBTQ student groups on campus, such as the LGBT Resource Center, Queer People of Color and First-Year Advocacy Board.“We’re very much in the feminist community and the LGBTQA community,” said Sara Noe, who was running a booth for the online clothing store Kidd Bell. “We’re all about equality.” Kidd Bell sells shirts, pins, hats and condoms with strong messages of feminism and equality. Another addition to Pridefest was an appearance by Jeffrey Liang, a health educator at Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team. At the event, Liang helped facilitate free HIV testing for students. According to Liang, QuASA reached out to APAIT to bring their van onto campus, where testing occured. “A lot of people don’t really have access to HIV testing, so the more we can do to provide access to that, to educate, to work on eradicating the stigma that is around HIV testing and really promote that no matter what your status is, your status is sexy and taking care of yourself is the most sexy thing you can do,” Liang said.To Pan, an event like USC Pridefest serves as a celebration of identities not only on campus, but also throughout the Los Angeles community.“Pridefest [is] a moment of visibility, and it’s important … to savor the good moments and see how far we’ve come, and also perhaps mingle, find new people and see the queer community on campus come out and be strong,” Pan said.