The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumers Services, Division of Food Safety, has positioned itself to continue implementation of a rapid response capability to measure and evaluate our various food safety programs to increase our prevention of the number of foodborne illnesses in the state of Florida, thereby improving the health of Floridians and our many visitors and exports. In March 2010, a report by the Produce Safety Project, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, ranked Florida fourth in the nation for number of foodborne illnesses. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions, states the number of foodborne illness cases are 82 million a year in the United States of which 4.9 million cases are attributed to Florida. The average medical cost of treating a foodborne illness in Florida is estimated at $1,984, the second highest in the nation. The economic impact of contaminated food sickens Floridians to nearly $10 billion a year in medical and other losses, according to a new food safety analysis. With the funds awarded from this cooperative agreement, we would continue our improvement of our rapid response infrastructure to evaluate our practices and methods to ensure effectiveness, then develop and implement our improvement plan and have adequate technology and knowledgeable staff to validate our goal to reduce the number of foodborne illnesses. We would continue to rebuild our Information Technology system in order to track and evaluate our strategies being effective, both in our food inspection and laboratory systems; this task would be assigned to qualified individuals in the field of system rebuild. The rebuild would allow tracking capabilities of our activities and be able to handle external interfaces with our food safety partners in Florida which include our Department of Health, Department of Business and Professional Regulations-Division of Hotels and Restaurants, the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture as well as other agencies involved in protecting the food supply in Florida. We would dedicate staff to oversee this endeavor with verifiable, documented results. We currently have adopted the FDA's Retail National Program Standards and Manufactured Food Regulatory Program Standards and with this award we can continue to work towards implementation of the standards by increasing the knowledge of our workforce by applicable training and by supplying staff with current electronic technology to chart our activities and to respond rapidly to an adverse event to lessen the negative health and economic impact on the Florida community.
By the award of this cooperative agreement, Florida, in partnership with all state, federal and local food/feed stakeholders will have the infrastructure to respond rapidly and effectively to any food/feed situation. Having pre-established, integrated working relationships will allow an optimum response. The health of the public will be improved by our joint efforts to prevent and minimize adverse events, intentional or unintentional.