Merging oversight could improve food safety

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Friday, June 10, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is among commentaries written by students in the Washington Seminar program at Janesville Parker High School. The seminar is for students in the advanced placement U.S. government course taught by Joe Van Rooy.

Since the long overdue Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law this Jan. 4, the food safety system has done a better job at regulating industries and ensuring that food is being inspected correctly. If a contamination or safety concern in food occurs, there is now a tight timeframe for the industry to fix the problem.

“The industry is now required to immediately notify, stop production and create a written solution within 15 days,” according to Emily Mathusa of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

This is working well for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; however, the Food and Drug Administration is still much weaker than the USDA. It’s doubtful the FDA will ever have the resources the USDA enjoys, but inspections of imported food by the FDA need to increase.

Only about 1 percent of food the FDA is responsible for, which is everything except meat and eggs, is inspected, according to Kelli Ludlum of the American Farm Bureau Federation and David Schmidt, president of the International Food Information Council.

This small percentage is due to the lack of FDA resources, according to Tim Schwab, a researcher at Food and Water Watch. The number of inspections performed by the FDA needs to increase. However, this will be difficult with budget cuts on the way.

Budget cuts to the USDA and FDA could improve the food safety system, especially after recent improvements through the Food Safety Modernization Act. Along with the talk of budget cuts, there are rumors of combining food safety into one agency to reduce duplication.

This should occur. It would save money, and there would be coordination.

Last updated: 5:41 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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