In addition to the school food reform bill, another food-centric discussion that garnered a lot of attention during 2010 was that of food safety. In a food chain seemingly rampant with failure and inadequacy, resulting in exorbitant numbers of contaminated fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products over the past few years, safety was of the utmost concern for many.
Earlier this week, President Obama made official the most recent food safety legislation, known as the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 (S.510). The new law, backed by both the National Restaurant Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants, will be the biggest adjustment to the U.S. food system in the last seventy years.
While I would assume that most people are encouraged to see this legislation pass, a handful of politicos are quick to emphasize that the new rules will take a bit for implementation, while others, like Chris Crawford, communications director for Georgia Representative Jack Kingston, are surprisingly even questioning whether the cost of implementing the new guidelines will be money well spent.
“We want to see that number come down from 48 million [people sickened] a year,” Crawford said, “but if you look at it, it is still, statistically, a low number, in the context of our total interaction with food.” Considering that 308 million Americans eat at least three meals a day in a 365-day year, “I think there is something like a 1-in-10,000 chance of getting a foodborne illness” from something you eat, he said.
“Our question is, did we take enough time to look at what works and what restaurateurs and farmers and food producers, and the people who handle food, have been doing themselves that has reduced the incidences of foodborne illness” before passing the law, Crawford said. The ultimate question, he said, is this: “$1.4 billion over five years for something that has a better than 99.99-percent success rate already – Is that the right way to spend money right now?”
I say a resounding “Yes!”
I even question whether it’s going far enough. Though the new laws will allow the FDA to have more say within the production community – the ability to require recalls, for instance, whereas before, the office could only recommend one – the legislation doesn’t actually increase the number of facility inspections, which seems to be where many flaws lie. Luckily, it does offer inspectors the ability to review company records as well as require food producers to implement preventative food safety measures.
For more information on what the new food safety rules entail, The Christian Science Monitor has a roundup of the Top 6 reforms included in the new act, while Food Safety News takes a deeper look into the legislation’s specifics. You can also read back through our food safety news archives to look at some of the issues that have plagued the U.S. food system.