Sunday, January 27, 2013


Food safety management is an art of balancing the interests of various stakeholders such as the consumer, farmer, processor and the government. No Food Law can be deemed to be perfect but striving hard to bring it to near perfection is the bounden duty of the government which has immense power to do that. Americans are known to be sensitive to food borne infections of different kind and most of the focus is on preventing such pathogen driven poisoning episodes that can take a toll on the health of the citizens. It is in this context that new food safety rules being implemented there are being scrutinized for their effectiveness. Many observers feel that the new protocols being put in place can only bring additional economic burden to the processing industry with practically no impact on food safety breaching in the coming years. Here is a critique on the above issue which is causing some consternation in that country.

'In pushing for passage of the law, the FDA and its supporters billed the law as a necessary solution to a problem of great magnitude. Indeed, some 48 million Americans suffer from some form of foodborne illness each year—a figure the FDA cites at several of its FSMA web pages. The agency claims the FSMA will "better protect public health by strengthening the food safety system" and helping to eliminate the "largely preventable" problem of foodborne illnesses. But if we can largely prevent foodborne illness, we won't have the new FSMA regulations to thank. In truth, the law's real impact on food safety will be minimal. The FSMA would permit the FDA to hire about 2,000 new food-safety inspectors in order to increase the frequency of food-safety inspections. Specifically, the proposed rules would require that "[a]ll high-risk domestic facilities must be inspected within five years of enactment and no less than every three years, thereafter." Given that the FSMA rules are just now open to public comment and won't be final for another year or two, this translates into a likely total of exactly two inspections of what the FDA refers to as the most "high-risk domestic facilities" over the next decade. How's that for impact? Even if these inspections were to take place more than once in a blue moon, just how effective at preventing foodborne illness are FDA inspections? Not very. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, for example, notes that FDA food safety inspections dropped by 47 percent between 2003 and 2006. During that same period, according to CDC data, rates of infection from bacteria like listeria were flat, and below traditional averages. This reflects what the CDC has reported—that despite the misconception that cases of foodborne illnesses are mushrooming, there has been a general "downward trend in foodborne infections."
A relevant question that is being asked is whether food borne diseases are really so wide spread as is being made out as the data show that such food safety failures are declining over the years. Probably the powerful electronic media which brings to the living rooms of millions of families even small episodes, is creating an impression that Americans are in danger of being overwhelmed by food poisoning incidences! The genuine concern expressed by the industry, especially the small scale players, about the economic burden on them in adhering to new safety regime put in place must be addressed to prevent a dislocation of the processed food manufacture and distribution system due to over zealous inspecting officials.


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