U.S. food safety concerns top NEHA’s ‘key environmental health’ statement
The Denver-based National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has researched and carefully crafted a series of new policy statements in response to concerns from environmental health professionals and industry.
The full policy statements are available at https://www.neha.org/government-affairs/neha-policy-statements . NEHA represents more than 6,600 governmental, private, academic, and uniformed services sector environmental health professionals in the U.S. and its territories and internationally.
Food safety is among the items topping NEHA’s newly released policy statements including:
- Food Safety: The current capacity for tracking and surveilling foodborne disease outbreaks is fragmented and not sufficiently standardized across agencies and organizations that protect public health. Additionally, the lack of traceability and transparency in the supply chain has made tracking outbreaks more difficult and time-consuming, resulting in more illnesses, deaths, and money lost. Recommendations include improved technology for tracking and intervention, education, credentialing, and training food safety regulators.
- Vector Control: Deficiencies in funding, research, and surveillance—paired with increased contact between humans, animals, and the environment—make preventing vectorborne diseases a challenge that the U.S. is not currently equipped to handle. NEHA recommendations include incorporating the vector management framework outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Mosquito Control Association, and World Health Organization while also integrating a One Health approach.
- Well Water Quality Testing: More than 15 percent of the population relies on a private wells as their primary source of drinking water, for which there are no federal water quality requirements. Most states do not regulate private well water quality. NEHA recommendations include implementing local or state legislation requiring and regulating private well water quality testing—for free or low cost — and collecting and sharing information about identified contaminants in the area with the community.
- Uniform and Integrated Food Safety System Adoption: It is estimated that approximately 48 million people in the U.S. become sick from a domestically acquired foodborne illness annually. Of these, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die. The economic impact of foodborne illness has been estimated at $152 billion annually for direct medical care and loss of quality of life. NEHA recommendations include adopting of the most up-to-date Food and Drug Administration model Food Code, consistent reporting of data, using an integrated food safety system, and training food service personnel.
“One of our responsibilities is to raise the voice of the environmental health profession on issues our members and leadership have identified as concerns,” said David Dyjack, DrPH, CIH, NEHA executive director. “Our team of subject matter experts is able to conduct the research on best practices on behalf of local, state, territorial, and tribal areas and provide recommendations about how to protect public health.”
Each statement has been vetted by NEHA and adopted by the NEHA Board of Directors as official statements of the association. The policy statements are shared with local, state, and federal policy makers, including both the executive and legislative branches and relevant environmental and public health boards. NEHA policy statements remain active for three years.
Other NEHA Policy Statements
- Body Art: The current landscape of body art legislation is fragmented with inconsistent safety standards and professional requirements as well as a lack of enforcement mechanisms. NEHA recommendations include robust legislation requiring that body artists are licensed and work in licensed facilities, that facilities have met licensing thresholds, and that there is an enforcement mechanism in place.
- Mosquito Control: Increasing urbanization, changing land use patterns, and expanding international travel and trade bring humans and animals into more frequent contact with mosquitoes, while climate and other environmental changes also fuel their spread. There is insufficient sustained and organized funding for mosquito control programs, which has led to nationally inconsistent and socioeconomically biased programs. As such, NEHA recommends incorporating the vector management framework outlined by CDC, American Mosquito Control Association, and the World Health Organization and the foundation of a national public health framework for the prevention and control of vectorborne diseases in humans, as outlined by CDC.
- Role of Environmental Health in Preparedness: Environmental health professionals play a critically important role in public health preparedness, response, and recovery to mitigate injury and illness during and after emergencies and disasters. NEHA recommendations include integrating environmental health into public health emergency preparedness and providing practical function and skills-based training for environmental health professionals.
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