An estimated 48 million Americans got sick from foodborne illnesses in 2011, down from 78 million in 1999, according to CDC data

WASHINGTON , March 15, 2012 (press release) – As the world’s food production systems modernize and become more global, properly trained and certified food safety professionals play an increasingly critical role in preventing foodborne illnesses.

Advancements in food science and technology have dramatically increased the yields of food producers over the last several decades, helping meet the fast-growing global demand for food. According to the United Nations, total food production in the United States alone went from 287 million metric tons in 1965 to more than 674 million metric tons in 2010.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 48 million people in America got sick in 2011 from foodborne illnesses, with 128,000 being hospitalized and 3,000 deaths. This is a significant decrease from the total of 78 million cases in 1999, thanks to improved regulation and oversight.

To keep consumers safe, food safety professionals monitor the food supply to ensure that they are not exposed to foodborne illness throughout the food chain. These professionals are trained to enforce standards set by various national agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Canadian Food Safety Assessment Program, as well as state, provincial, and local governments.

Organizations such as the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals (NRFSP), a member of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), help uphold these regulations by maintaining certification programs for food safety professionals, ensuring they have the knowledge to assess whether ingredients, processes, and facilities are safe.

“The risk of food contamination is always present, from farms to our tables,” said NRFSP CEO Larry Lynch. “As our food supply systems become more complex, food safety professionals are vital in making sure what we eat is safe every step along the way. Armed with knowledge of federal, state, and local standards and regulations, certified food safety professionals help food producers and retail managers and handlers avoid spreading potentially catastrophic diseases.”

As food production has advanced, so have the regulations that ensure its safety. The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, has tasked the FDA with creating and implementing new standards and safety systems. Through alliances with state and local agencies, the food industry, and academia, the agency has been able to shift its focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. Education and enforcement systems have been updated to keep up with food protection standards. It is these standards that food safety professionals work to uphold.

“The broader food science community also works to create safe foods and ensure a safe food system for consumers. As such, food scientists and technologists equally need to stay apprised of the latest food safety developments,” said Bob Moore, CAE, Vice President of Knowledge & Learning Experiences at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), an ICE member organization. “In addition to our existing food safety education and resources, we are launching a comprehensive Certified Food Scientist certification program later this year to formally assess that professionals have requisite applied knowledge of the eight food science domains - food safety being one of them.”

Through advancements in safety standards and the vigilance of certified food safety professionals, foodborne illnesses will continue to be prevented and controlled. For more information about how certified professionals are protecting the public in a wide range of industries, visit www.credentialingexcellence.org.

About the Institute for Credentialing Excellence and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies

Established in 1977, Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) (formerly the National Organization for Competency Assurance) is the leading international membership organization representing the credentialing community. ICE fulfills its mission through the delivery of education and training programs, in setting quality standards for credentialing, and by providing accreditation services through its accreditation division, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The ICE membership is composed of credentialing organizations, testing companies, and individual professional development consultants. ICE and NCCA are based in Washington, DC. For further information, please visit www.credentialingexcellence.org.

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