The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Produce Safety Project (PSP) at Georgetown University has issued a report that calls for a “unified, cross-agency” approach to tracking foodborne pathogens in humans, animals, food, and feed.

Titled Building the Foundations of a Modern Food Safety System, the report charges the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with summarizing “surveillance data on human foodborne illnesses—including outbreaks and sporadic cases—and on pathogen contamination in domestic and imported animals, food and feed.”

PSP apparently based its recommendations on “extensive research and interviews” with food safety authorities in Denmark, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, according to a May 10, 2010, press release. The group has urged U.S. regulators to learn from steps taken by these countries to reform their food safety data collection and analysis since the 1990s.

In addition, the report provides specific recommendations for data collection and research, including (i) “revamping farm-to-table surveillance”; (ii) “developing cross-agency strategies for priority settings and attributing the burden of specific foods to overall foodborne illness”; (iii) “better coordination of food safety research”; (iv) “increasing the role of regulatory in research program entities”; (v) “ensuring transparency and public participation”; (vi) “expanding traceability requirements along food chain”; and (vii) “standardizing record-keeping and creating incentives or requirements for electronic information tracking.”

“We also believe there is an advantage to be gained by the creation of an independent federal institute for food safety risk analysis,” stated one co-author. “It would be comprised of the majority of scientists and analysts currently within FDA, CDC and USDA food safety groups and tasked with supporting a risk-based food system through integrated research, data collection and analysis. That is the model from European countries with strong-food-safety systems.”