The FDA probably doesn’t have the time, staff, money, or resources to inspect every single container of food that comes from another country to the USA as “imported food.” More than two years after Congress passed a landmark law meant to prevent the importation of contaminated food that sickens Americans, the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules on July 26, 2013 that for the first time put the main onus on companies to police the food they import, notes a July 26, 2013 New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise, “FDA Says Importers Must Audit Food Safety – The New York Times.”
Do companies have all the responsibility regarding on-site inspections of the food exactly where it’s grown and processed in some other country? Major food importers and consumer advocates generally praised the new rules, but who’s watching the watchers if the FDA doesn’t have the time, staff, or money for every piece of importedfood?
Nearly 15 percent of food that Americans eat comes from abroad, more than double the amount just 10 years ago, including nearly two-thirds of fresh fruits and vegetables. And the safety of the food supply — foreign and domestic — is a critical public health issue.
One in every six Americans becomes ill from eating contaminated food each year
You can check out the statistics with the FDA which estimates that about 130,000 individuals are hospitalized and 3,000 die because of contaiminated food. The The F.D.A inspects only 1 to 2 percent of all imports at American ports and borders, explains the NY Times article. The new rules would subject imported foods to the same safety standards as food produced domestically and require companies importing the food to make sure it meets those standards.
American companies would have to prove that their foreign suppliers had controls in place with audits of the foreign facilities, food tests, and reviews of records, among other methods. The companies would also have to keep records on foreign suppliers. They would be allowed to hire outside auditors to make on-site inspections — if such inspections were ultimately required. The auditors would be vetted in a process approved by the F.D.A.
Shifting the focus from responding to food contamination to preventing it
You can check out the Food Safety Modernization Act, a law passed by Congress in 2010. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the most sweeping reform of the USA food safety laws in more than 70 years. President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law on January 4, 2011. The Food Safety Modernization Act aims to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.
Biggest importers of food in the USA include Walmart and Cargill. The importers are doing their best so far. It’s the consumer groups that want to know why outbreaks persist under the current system. Is the issue smaller companies that bring a large share of imports to the USA? Is there a reason to point a finger at small or large companies or the FDA by the average consumer?
The NY Times article notes that the new rules on imports would cost $400 million to $500 million. Consumers want to know just who is legally accountable for ensuring safe food production before the food arrived in the United States. If not the company under the scrutiny of a high power watcher of watchers, and not the FDA due to not enough staffing or resources for every morsel of food, then who, the average consumer–who just wants safe, clean food?
What happens when years after you buy a food product or a supplement, you finally find out it contains excess of something you don’t want in your food? For example see sites such as “Best and Worst Magnesium Supplements Identified by ConsumerLab”, “Pesticide Residues in Imported, Organic, and “Suspect” Fruits and Vegetables,” and “FDA sets new limits on arsenic in apple juice – NBC News.com.”