Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food Safety in the News

So one of the tangents to the whole 'buy it locally from someone you know' phenomenon that's sweeping the nation 1912-style is a corrolary that the mass-production of food leads to less safe supplies of food. So there's a regulatory structure to make sure food producers are making people sick or killing them. Good idea, right?

Obviously, there are cracks in the system. Today brings two articles that talk about some of the recent problems in the food safety world and proposals by both the federal legislative and executive branches.

From Grist on H.R. 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act:
As we learned yet again in JBS’ recall of 421,000 pounds of beef, federal agencies don’t have the power to enforce recalls of tainted products; recalls are “voluntary”—and offending companies are not even required to release information about precisely where suspect products are sent. Indeed, as far I can tell, JBS has released no such information. On the company’s Web site, the latest press release dates to October 2008. This morning, I called the company’s “media relations” number—which is folded under the public relations department, according to the voice recording—to ask if the info had been released. I left a voice message; no one has called back.

Importantly, FWW informs us, H.R. 2749 would give the FDA to recall suspect food. That’s an important step—and it’s shocking that the agency doesn’t currently have that power. But here’s the catch: the FDA’s purview does not extend to meat. Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the USDA, not the FDA, monitors meat safety. “This means that meat and poultry plants under USDA inspection are not affected by this bill,” FWW writes.

And from McPaper on the Administration's Food Safety Working Group, a panel of administration officials and outside experts created in March and co-chaired by the Vice President and Secretary of HHS:

"The focus is to have a completely different emphasis than we've had in the past," Biden said. "We're going to make our new priority preventing (food contamination) from happening in the first place."

Coming changes that can be implemented without Congressional approval:

•Within 90 days, an improved individual alert system at to give consumers immediate access to "critical food safety information" such as recalls.

•New safeguards designed to cut salmonella in raw eggs, E. coli in ground beef and other pathogens in leafy greens, melons and tomatoes.

•A better tracking system to pinpoint the origins of outbreaks.

•Better communication between government agencies that regulate food safety.

Looks like there's some key industry support for these efforts with the National Grocers signing on to the administration changes already.

Well done folks. Do some things now that don't take legislation and work the legislation that appears to be needed to make food a much safer commodity in the marketplace.

And yes, dear readers, I promise to cook soon. Tonight, in fact. With as many local ingredients as I can get.

G and I are cooking up tomorrow's lunch special at Sam's.

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