Friday, March 9, 2012


While debating about who are responsible for the safety of foods consumed by the citizens there is rarely any unanimity. There are several players in producing and distributing food to the market and they include the grower, transporter, handling agency, processor and the retailer. Of course even consumer can be some time responsible for food related episodes. In the case of processed and packed & sealed foods the processor has to ensure that only safety conformed contents are marketed and it is more or less certain that responsible processors assume responsibility for the safety of their products till the date of expiry or till it is opened. Controversy comes when one deals with raw meat products and cold stored open packs which are liable to be contaminated at different handling stages. Holding the farmer responsible for the produce they supply to the retailer may not be absolutely justified considering that contamination can always occur once the product is transferred to the retailer. Here is an interesting discussion on this issue.   

"A food safety expert has told growers that they should not rely on third party audits to guarantee the safety of their produce. Larry Goodridge, associate professor at the Center for Meat Safety and Quality in the Department of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University, told farmers that they bear primary responsibility for food safety. "Each farm or processing facility has to be able to assess their own risks," Goodridge told the governor's annual forum on Colorado agriculture in Denver. "Everybody who produces food has to be responsible for the safety of the food they produce. You cannot rely on third parties. You just can't." He cited the listeria outbreak of last year that was responsible for the deaths of 32 people, and which, for example, was traced to a farm that has just recently been awarded a "superior" rating from a third party food inspector. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate third-party auditors, and a congressional report released in January quoted the auditing company that graded Jensen farms as saying audits are not intended to improve food safety standards".

The above discourse applies to the situation involving technical auditors on whom the farms depend on for safety certification. Dependence on third party auditors is inevitable because most farms do not have the necessary wherewithal to test their products but it appears that it may become mandatory for the farms to assume responsibility for the safety of their offerings if the present trend of thinking is taken into reckoning. It does not augur well for the meat industry if they are punished when their auditors do not do a good job after taking hefty fees. Government must take the auditors also as responsible for bad products which only can make the latter more diligent and careful while doing their job.


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