The FDA Takes on the Food Safety Policing Role (Soon?)

Sick from Food? Not Rare Anymore

People from the place I grew up used to joke about the food that sold by street vendors: not clean enough but won’t get you sick.  Most of the time, the food materials were produced locally and prepared right in front of you; if you don’t feel comfortable about the sanitary condition of the food preparation process, you just don’t buy it.  If you do get sick, though it was not that common, come back to complain and ask for improvement or compensation.  Most food vendors operate on the ethical and moral basis–make food for the customers the way they make their own food.  Good reputation will serve their small businesses well by word-of-mouth.  Now, time has changed.  With the industrialization of food production and distribution, food-borne illnesses have increased in the numbers of outbreak and on a bigger and broader scale.  Recent Salmonella contaminated eggs causing nearly 2000 illnesses is just the tip of the iceberg.

Something about Legislation You Need to Know

On 30 November, the US Senate passed a law on food safety that renders the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a bigger muscle to stop unsafe food reaching to consumers.  Although the food safety bill was passed by the US Senate, it may or may not eventually become a law.  According to Nature News, the food safety bill will require further negotiation between the Republicans and Democrats.  Go figure!

The bill could conceivably be defined to raise taxes, by imposing fees on food importers and on domestic manufacturers whose food is subject to a recall when it is discovered to be tainted. If those fees are defined as taxes, then, under the US Constitution, the bill must first be passed by the House of Representatives. The House passed a food safety bill in July, 2009, but it is different than the Senate version — meaning that, for the Senate bill that was passed on Tuesday to become law, it must first be voted on by the House, and then again passed by the Senate, before being signed into law by the president.

Beyond the FDA’s Policing Power on Food Safety

Have you ever seen a car running red light or speeding but no police around to catch it?  Have you ever wondered the traffic lights, signals, and signs are good enough to keep cars and pedestrians safe?  The traffic safety enforcement is only as useful as the people who actually obey it.  Likewise, I think the FDA’s new food safety regulatory power will only be effective when all parties, including farmers (produce, meat, egg, milk, etc.), food production and process companies, food inspectors, importers/exporters, and consumers, agree to cooperate to achieve the same goal–food safety to all humans and animals alike.

Food Safety Issues Appearing in the Media

A while ago, one of my co-workers lent me a book called “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto” by Michael Pollan.  My eyes were wide-opened by several examples of how our nutrition was compromised by industrialized food process.  In conjunction with recent food safety legislation, I also recommend several media reports about food safety and regulations:

Until next post, keep on reading and writing!!