Throughout history, foodborne illnesses have plagued humanity. To combat these threats, various food preparation techniques, like cooking, salting, canning, and fermentation, were born out of a desire to ensure food safety. While today's modern food safety system is more advanced, our vigilance in this area has a long and storied past.
The earliest recorded foodborne illness case dates back to 323 B.C., believed to be the cause of Alexander the Great's death—typhoid fever, courtesy of Salmonella typhi. The need for food safety measures was evident even in antiquity.
Milestones in Food Safety
1862 – USDA and FDA Formed: President Abraham Lincoln established the USDA and appointed chemist Charles M. Wetherill to lead the Division of Chemistry, a precursor to the FDA.
1906 – Pure Food and Drug Act and Federal Meat Inspection Act Passed: The first U.S. food safety laws came into effect, ensuring the quality of our food supply.
1938 – Pure Food and Drug Act Revised: The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938 enhanced food safety regulations.
1970 – CDC Begins Tracking Foodborne Illnesses: The CDC started recording foodborne illness-related deaths, modernizing data collection.
2011 – Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Signed Into Law: FSMA empowered the FDA to focus on preventive measures, reducing foodborne outbreaks.
In 2020, the FDA unveiled the "Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety," focusing on traceability and digital technologies to enhance food safety. Despite progress, challenges remain. As pathogens evolve, vigilance and innovation in food safety continue to be essential. In the timeless pursuit of safer food, our journey is far from over.