Scientific Basis And Implications

Because academicians are some of the most educated consumers, they generally have the greatest understanding regarding the safety of foods, balancing the science with the practical application of the science in the food supply chain. Academicians can be the most knowledgeable about the science-based research used in defining safe food. However, the specifics of research, and the innumerable questions that are generated through research, lead to inevitably variable viewpoints on the science. The academic questions surrounding safe food are often multidimensional, involving scientific disciplines including biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, medicine, plant and animal physiology, and food science, to name only a few. Because academicians generally are narrowly focused in particular research disciplines, their definitions include details surrounded by boundaries and assumptions.

One of the common scientific measures used to define safe food is the number of illnesses associated with food. In the U.S., data sources for this measure include the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet), the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, the Public Health Laboratory Information System, the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, and the Gulf Coast States Vibrio Surveillance System. Similar surveillance systems are in use in other countries to gather foodborne disease statistics. Mead et al. (1999) used these data sources, and others, to estimate that foodborne diseases cause ~76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in the U.S. annually. Viruses, predominantly Norwalk-like viruses, accounted for nearly 80% of the estimated total cases caused by known foodborne pathogens.

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