January 19, 2018

Food Safety in the Global Food System

On November 7, 2012, USDA Deputy Commissioner Michael R. Taylor spoke at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo on ensuring consumer confidence in food safety in today’s global food system. He said that consumer confidence is the foundation for global food trade.

According to Taylor, consumers know that food is not risk free, but they also expect that everyone involved in the food industry is making a reasonable effort to prevent problems and make food safe. The food industry must commit to taking responsibility for food safety and enact a comprehensive systems approach, from farm to table, to make that happen. We need credible and effective government oversight, public-private collaboration and partnership, and transparency from both industry and government.

Since a breakdown at any point in the farm-to-table chain can introduce pathogenic bacteria, we need inspections and investigations to make sure standards are being met. Government builds the scientific foundation and knowledge for an effective food safety system. Industry must work with government in a complementary way.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is grounded in science, with preventive controls, a comprehensive approach for managing supply chains, and a new import oversight system.  The public-private partnership must be transparent, and all stakeholders need to support firms and share information to prevent food safety hazards.

Unfortunately, several critical parts of FSMA have been stuck in the Office of Management and Budget for months. Consumers groups have sued the Obama administration over these stalled rules.   The stalled rules set new safety standards for produce, strengthen the safety of the imported foods supply chain, and set standards for fresh produce. They want a court to impose a deadline so these regulations are enacted in a timely manner, especially since in the last year three of the major foodborne illness outbreaks were caused by imported foods and fresh produce.

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