To more proactively tackle food safety problems, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should implement a risk-based approach to pinpoint where along the production, distribution and handling chains there is the greatest potential for contamination and other problems, says a new report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.

FDA would then be able to direct appropriate amounts of its resources and attention to those high-risk areas and increase the chances of catching problems before they turn into widespread outbreaks, the report states.

The report offers FDA a blueprint for developing a risk-based model. It also outlines several organizational steps the agency should take to improve the efficiency of its many food safety activities, such as increasing coordination with state and other federal agencies that share responsibility for protecting the nation's food supply. In addition, the report says Congress should consider amending the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to explicitly provide the authority FDA needs to fulfill its food safety mission.

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