Many times people ask me—“Isn’t nutrition informatics have to do with electronic health records?” The answer is a resounding—not at all! Back in 2007, the ADA Nutrition Informatics Work Group took great time and effort to try to determine what areas of nutrition was impacted by informatics. The Work Group discovered after considerable analysis that an informatics thread ran through all six areas of dietetic practice (community, clinical, research, consultation and business practice, food and nutrition management, and educational [professional]). Some argue that there some day may be a seventh called “informatics.”
A wonderful piece of legislation was passed this week that hopefully will nudge the role of informatics a bit further within our realm. The Food Safety Bill was passed yesterday and likely represents one of the rare collaborations in this divided political arena. One of the pieces of this bill calls for improved and speedier surveillance of food safety issues and outbreaks by the Food and Drug Administration. Thank you, Senators, for passing the most impressive food safety regulations in 7 decades. It’s not just the regulations that matter, but allocating financial means to enforce the regulations. To me, this is not about whether government should interfere or not—it is about assuring that we have access to safe food. In a world where just having food is not a given, we surely can put the due diligence to feeding our country safe food. Health surveillance technologies are in existence and available—from something as simple as a Google analytics showing that certain areas of the country have a higher search on “flu” to electronic communication on food outbreaks by locale.
I can only hope that deaths from food contamination will become extinct in my lifetime….perhaps via a powerful good use for nutrition informatics.