CFSAN Announces Science and Research Strategic Plan: Issues Range from Nanoparticles to Obesity

June 23, 2013

By Etan J. Yeshua

FDA has announced several key areas on which it plans to focus its food- and cosmetic-related research and regulatory efforts.  The plan specifically names imported foods, nanoparticles in cosmetics, dietary supplement toxicology, and obesity, among others, as specific areas of concern.

On Tuesday the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (“CFSAN”) published the CFSAN Science and Research Strategic Plan, which CFSAN said was part of an effort “to implement new Food Safety Modernization Act-mandated regulatory responsibilities,” and “to inform the center’s regulatory role as it applies to food and cosmetic safety, food defense, and applied nutrition.”

In the plan, CFSAN identifies five “Strategic Goals” that CFSAN believes will have “the greatest impact on modernizing the nation’s food safety system and protecting the public health:”

  • Better controlling and preparing for hazards
  • Creating faster and validated methods
  • Influencing consumer behavior toward healthy dietary choices
  • Developing leading edge technology for understanding and evaluating scientific information; and
  • Improving FDA’s adaptability and responsiveness

CFSAN elaborated by providing “Research Outcomes” that would indicate progress toward each Strategic Goal:

  • Better controlling and preparing for hazards
    Perhaps the broadest of the Strategic Goals, this goal calls for developing better control of and response to hazards by performing research in microbiology, analytical chemistry, toxicology, food science, bioinformatics, and nanotechnology.  CFSAN’s research focuses on microbial pathogens, chemical contaminants, and food safety evaluation.  Thus, as examples of research outcomes, CFSAN mentions improved preventive controls for certain pathogens, “better detection and quantitation of allergens,” safety assessment of nanoparticles in cosmetics, and “toxicological data on dietary supplements of concern.”  
  • Create faster and validated methods
    With this goal, CFSAN will seek to “reduce the time it takes to detect contaminants and adulterants in food and to validate all of the regulatory methods [it] use[s].”  For example, CFSAN intends to validate its methods for detecting Salmonella and E.coli in fresh produce; to be able to detect norovirus and hepatitis A in foods in two-days; and to be able to screen chemical contaminants in high-risk products.
  • Influence consumer behavior toward healthy dietary choices
    CFSAN explained that, although nutrition labeling is “continually being improved,” consumers may not be using the information to select their diets in light of “growing problems of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”  Therefore, CFSAN intends to evaluate the effectiveness of “communication and change in behavior practices,” and to promote research to measure the benefits of certain dietary changes, including adherence to the 2010 Dietary Guideline for Americans.
  • Develop leading edge technology for understanding and evaluating scientific information
    Given the high volume of data that food safety regulation entails, CFSAN plans to develop information technology that will aid in assessing these data.  For example, CFSAN plans to research new technologies to assess the safety of food additives and to help characterize and sub-type microbes in order to better detect and respond to foodborne outbreaks.
  • Improve our adaptability and responsiveness
    Finally, CFSAN has set an organizational goal to better adapt and respond to new regulatory concerns by prioritizing research, collaborating with other regulatory bodies, and planning for variability in research funding.