Saturday, December 16

How Safe is Our Food Supply?

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Food safety has become a bigger issue as more and more outbreaks of E.coli are being reported. About 76 million people get sick from food borne illnesses with around 5000 Americans dying from it every year. Part of the problem is that food safety is spread out over 4 gover agencies with their own rules and regulations. There also is no mandatory food safety regulation required of the food industry themselves. Another problem that is not being dealt with, is the fact that we are importing more and more of our food supply from foreign countries and their regulations are much more laxed or nonexistent to ours.

Back in March of 2007, China shipped 700 tons of mislabeled wheat gluten to the US. That resulted in the contamination of our pet food supply with the organic based chemical, melamine which sickened and killed a great number of cats and dogs. The FDA in 2006, inspected about 20,500 foreign shipments out of 8.9 million and that is the reason this and other food safety incidences have happened. The Food and Drug Administration simply does not have the money, manpower or the tools to do the job properly.

Some proponents are calling for one government agency to oversee all of the food safety in the country, others want to see the food industry and foreign countries take the initiative and self regulate, meaning they would over see the safety of their food supplies themselves. One coop, the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement have asked for voluntary standards of their growers with regard to irrigation, fertilization and sanitation. Calling for the use of hairnets, gloves and washing of hands. Some of their members have hired their own safety managers to prevent contamination of their fields. This comes at a price tag of $250,000 a year but the alternative costs, if contamination should occur, would be much greater, in the billions with possible injury to or loss of human life.

It may be worth a look at what Europe has implemented with regard to their food safety systems. The UK and France have had a 1 to 2% occurrence of food borne illnesses compared to the US at 25%. Georgetown University came up with The Produce Safety Project which is an annual report that would track food borne pathogens in people,animals and their feed. The CDC, FDAS and USDA would contribute to it. This integrated research, data collecting and analysis model is the one used by the European countries with the best food safety records in the world.

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