The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Mangoes are sliced in preparation for exportation from South America. Global food distribution increases the risk of widespread epidemics if food becomes contaminated.

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Food Safety

 
Foodborne diseases are largely preventable—but the goal requires vigilance in every step from the farm to the table. Good agricultural and manufacturing practices can reduce the spread of microbes among animals and prevent contamination of foods.
Advocates have recommended that all food safety activities be consolidated into a single federal agency with a unified mission.
Monitoring the entire food production process can pinpoint hazards and identify control points where contamination can be prevented, limited, or eliminated. A formal method for evaluating risk control is called the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, or HACCP (pronounced “has-sip”) system. First developed by NASA to ensure that the food eaten by astronauts was safe, HACCP safety principles are now being applied to a widening range of foods, including meat, poultry, seafood, fruit juices, and other products.
 
In recent years the U.S. Government Accountability Office, food safety advocates, and legislators have documented problems resulting from the fragmented nature of the nation’s food safety system. At least a dozen federal agencies, implementing at least 30 different laws, have roles in overseeing the safety of the nation’s food supply. Advocates have recommended that all food safety activities be consolidated into a single federal agency with a unified mission.
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Disease Watchlist

What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was used in some vaccines and other products, has been shown to present a risk to human health.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

  • Correct!

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

Infectious Disease Defined

Mortality

The number of deaths in a given time or place.

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