Report: Spoiled – Keeping Tainted Food Off America’s Tables

Friday, October 5, 2007 2:27
Comments Off on Report: Spoiled – Keeping Tainted Food Off America’s Tables

Perhaps by continuing to post on product failures, I am flogging a dead horse, but once again I have found another report that should be highlighted

Spoiled, Keeping Tainted Food Off America’s Tables (PDF Here) is written by Jessica Milano for the Progressive Policy Institute. She actually works for Competition Policy Associates (COMPASS)

Written from the perspective of an American looking for ways to protect consumers from imported products, Milano focuses primarily on the government agency infrastructure in her report and offers up the following 5 “simple ideas to improve food safety”

  1. Improve and simplify the regulatory process by creating a single food inspection agency.
  2. Double resources for food safety by cutting waste.
  3. Shift to a risk-based allocation of resources.
  4. Create a stronger recall authority.
  5. Use the Container Security Initiative (CSI) program to strengthen pointof-entry food inspections.

In coming to these conclusions, she lays out some very compeling evidence and arguments:

  • Food safety is currently managed by an intricate system of more than 30 laws and 50 inter-agency directives from multiple federal agencies in cooperation with state and local authorities.
  • While most of the nation’s overall food supply falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA,
    the majority of the government’s food-safety budget goes to the FSIS.
  • The amount of food imported to the United States has grown considerably in recent years, to approximately 13 percent of the annual American diet
    • More than one-quarter of all fruit, one-half of all tree nuts, and two-thirds of all fish and shellfish consumed in the United States are imports
    • The average American will consume more than 260 pounds of imported food each year—however, only 1.3 percent of foreign food shipments undergo inspection, and that rate is declining further as trade volumes increase.
  • More than 75 percent of all seafood is imported, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that contaminated seafood accounts for 15 percent of all documented foodborne outbreaks (outbreaks—”a greater percentage than either meat or poultry, even though meat and poultry are consumed at 8 and 6 times the rate of seafood, respectively,” according to a GAO report

Through her report, the statistics and arguments overall are solid in their analysis, and it is clear that there is a lot to be done. However there are a few things I would like to point out/ highlight/ learn more about:

1) She mentioned that there is a much higher rate of importation of seafood and of illness from seafood. However, is there any evidence that these sicknesses are linked to the actual product itself? Also, what about the impact of domestic US handling?

2) The only recent recalls I have seen where sicknesses had occured (pet food aside) were from th eU.S. beef industry and farmers. The major recalls were not imported items, and the Chinese products that were banned had no reported illnesses.

3) Her idea to merge food agencies and create efficiencies there I think is quite interesting. What hurdles exist here?

Overall, this briefing I believe is important to read as it is not only one of the more moderate ones, it actually is the first that I have seen that highlights the core issues and makes suggestions that sound reasonable, doable, and would have an impact.

Where I am concerned, is that it is focused solely on imports when clearly the biggest recalls and problems are not import related, but domestic. for their to be real change, this report should be married to a domestic focused one… that would be powerful.

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