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Closer to Zero: Partnership to Protect Our Food

Posted by Dr. Pamela Starke-Reed, Deputy Administrator, Agricultural Research Service and Dr. Melanie Abley, Senior Advisor, Office of the Chief Scientist in Research and Science
Jan 31, 2022
Image of a group of infants

USDA is collaborating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the Closer to Zero (C2Z) initiative. C2Z provides a crucial framework for the work that must be done to reduce heavy metal content in foods, but particularly in foods consumed by infants and children, our most vulnerable group.

USDA has a wealth of expertise to support FDA in solving this challenge that impacts all Americans.

The Agricultural Research Service studies every facet of how plants uptake heavy metals from the soil so that we can find ways to mitigate heavy metals in foods to the greatest extent possible.

The National Institute for Food and Agriculture’s vast partner and stakeholder network plans to collaborate in developing and sharing targeted communications on how women who are pregnant and/or lactating, infants, and young children can reduce their exposure to toxic elements in foods.

Its investments in agricultural research, education, and extension will help develop data-driven approaches to reduce toxic elements in the food production system.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service will provide essential oversight for assessing metal contamination in foods. FSIS serves as a critical link in notifying appropriate USDA and FDA offices if elevated levels of a concerning substance are detected in food.

As part of their overall mission, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) encourages consumers to follow a healthy dietary pattern, which is important at every stage of life. The benefits of a balanced diet can help minimize adverse effects of consuming excess of any one food.

FNS continues to coordinate with its FDA partners to ensure that USDA nutrition assistance program policies, guidance, and education are informed by current food safety regulations and guidance.

As USDA continues its focus on ensuring all Americans have access to nutritious and safe foods, Closer to Zero efforts bring us closer to that goal.

Category/Topic: Research and Science