Ok we have covered the more common ‘games’ that supermarkets play so now it is time to check on government and industry safety standards.
The Bureaucratic Maze Game
Food safety and quality in the United States is governed by no less than 30 federal laws and regulations administered by 15 federal agencies and additional state and local agencies.
Numerous federal, state and local agencies share responsibilities for regulating the safety of the U.S. food supply. Federal responsibility for food safety rests primarily with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
FDA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, is responsible for ensuring the safety of all domestic and imported food products (except for most meats and poultry). FDA also has oversight of all seafood, fish, and shellfish products. In many cases, the food safety functions of the FDA and USDA overlap; particularly inspection/enforcement, training, research, and rulemaking, for both domestic and imported food. Both USDA and FDA currently conduct similar inspections at some 1,500 dual jurisdiction establishments (facilities that produce foods regulated by both agencies).
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulates most meat and poultry and some egg products.
State and local food safety authorities collaborate with federal agencies for inspection and other food safety functions, and they regulate retail food establishments. Restaurants and other retail food establishments (like supermarkets) fall under state law and are regulated by state or local health departments. Typically these regulations require official inspections of specific design features, best food-handling practices and certification of food handlers.
Role of the CDC
The Centers for Disease Control leads federal efforts to gather data on foodborne illnesses, investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks and monitor the effectiveness of prevention and control efforts in reducing foodborne illnesses. CDC also plays a key role in building state and local health department epidemiology, laboratory, and environmental health capacity to support foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services External Web Site Policy, is the nation’s medical research agency—making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIH is made up of 27 Institutes and Centers, each with a specific research agenda, often focusing on particular diseases or body systems. NIH leadership plays an active role in shaping the agency's research planning, activities, and outlook. More than 80% of the NIH's budget goes to more than 300,000 research personnel at over 2,500 universities and research institutions. In addition, about 6,000 scientists work in NIH’s own Intramural Research laboratories, most of which are on the NIH main campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The main campus is also home to the NIH Clinical Center, the largest hospital in the world totally dedicated to clinical research. When it comes to our food safety NIH gets involved, along with the CDC, when an outbreak occurs.
All of the federal laws on food safety empower the USDA and FDA with different regulatory and enforcement authorities which come into play at every point in our food supply line, are misleading and somewhat sporatic.
For example, food products under FDA's jurisdiction may be sold to the public without the agency's prior approval. On the other hand, food products under USDA's jurisdiction must generally be inspected and approved as meeting federal standards before being marketed.
Under current law, UDSA ‘continuously’ (right) inspects slaughter facilities and examines each slaughtered meat and poultry carcass. They also visit each processing facility at least once during each operating day. For foods under FDA's jurisdiction, however, federal law does not mandate the frequency of these inspections.
Add the Bioterrorism Political Scare Tactic
We know that not only is ‘mental instability’ on the rise, but that it is most frequently used by the ‘fanatics’ of this world that can’t get attention or power any other way. So in typical human fashion, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our government had the federal food safety agencies began taking on the added responsibility of addressing the potential for deliberate contamination of agriculture and food products, AKA bioterrorism.
An executive order issued by President George W. Bush in 2001 added the food industry to the list of ‘critical sectors’ that need protection from possible terrorist attack. As a result of this order, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 established the Department of Homeland Security, which now provides overall ‘coordination’ for ‘protecting’ the U.S. food supply from deliberate contamination, as well as all other U.S. infrastructures.
Nothing really wrong with this until you realize that the Patriot Act allows DHS, under a declaration of National Emergency, to by-pass the three branches of our government and act independently of our government to ‘protect’ the United States.
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 granted the FDA additional food safety enforcement authorities similar to those of the USDA.
Recently, in the United States, a process called Country of Origin Labeling (or COOL) was required by the USDA. This can let you, the consumer, know more about where your produce is coming from and is utilized by DHS to track possible bioterrorism to our imported food supplies.
Couple this with the corporatization of all levels of the food industry and trends in U.S. food markets (for example, increasing imports as a share of U.S. food consumptions and increasing consumption of fresh, often unprocessed, foods) results in most of these regulations being placed either on the farmer/rancher or the point of sale. The problem here is that the last 20 years of outbreaks of food-borne illness in the U.S. have occurred primarily in between these two points or from imports alone.
Next remember that the more layers to any organizational structure, the more expenses and the slower the response. So the more all these federal, state, local and industry regulations are imposed, the more expensive the end product becomes. Plus we all know that too many cooks can spoil the soup – so with each bureaucratic layer and contention, more and more ‘bad’ food is making it into our daily food supply. And that is without corruption and graft thrown into the mix!
Food Safety Costs
What this all means is that all this regulation and labeling costs us money, many times twice or more over. How so?
Every time our food, in any format, is touched or handled there are already regulations that must be met, reported and or inspected to quantify that these regulations have been met. Each and every time this done, there is an expense and that expense is passed on to the consumer at point-of-sale. Example:
- The farm/ranch has to meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity, if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with.
- If the item is imported it has to meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity, if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with.
- Any transportation of any food item in any form must meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with.
- Any processing of any food item in any form must meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with.
- Anything done to or around these food items that has not already been identified above, must meet and report on certain regulations to some government entity if not more than one, to quantify these regulations are being complied with. This means that all these ‘dangerous’ chemical and pharmaceutical usages are being tracked by other regulations outside the food industry.
Labeling regulations currently include, and is not limited to: Organic, nutrition information, ingredient information and country of origin information.
Now say we want ‘honest labeling’ on any human GMO product and/or ingredient, or a list of the herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, gases and like used, to be labeled – this will incur regulation quantification monies to prove complicity.
Although I have been unable to find any actual cost analysis of labeling and regulation expenses, we can use some deductive, logical reasoning to guesstimate the cost:
- The cost of actually putting this information on the label or packaging itself is miniscule at best, as proven by the number of times producers and suppliers currently change the labeling and packaging without a change in price of the product.
- Many of the corporations that are complaining about and fighting any type of new ‘truth in labeling’ regulation on the basis of cost, are in my book, bogus at best and outright lies at worst. How? Think about this:
This means that if these additional labeling regulations were applied, the cost increase would be minimal; because the government can already utilize the information needed to quantify complaisance from its other government entities and/or the corporate entities themselves, since they are already tracking and recording this information.
Bottom line: The overall cost increase of food items due to a ‘truth in labeling’ regulation would be minimal and the greatest increase would be due to bureaucratic inefficiency.
Keep in mind that these combined efforts of the food industry and government regulatory agencies are some of the reasons the U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world. However, this situation of organizational complexity, comprised of shared government responsibilities; added to laws that can allow a government entity to by-pass the rest of government, creates not only budget and control battles between the various agencies; it lends itself to the ultimate corruption of said government, straight into the arms of tyranny. And this is on top of our federal governments overall mentality to “control the people”.
Where our choice in food products is stifled is with the lack of ‘truth in labeling’ in the U.S.. There are NO labeling requirements to know if food was: grown with fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides; if it has been pre-gassed or frozen; or if it is human-genetically modified in any way. Without ‘truth in labeling’ we don’t even know if the item is waxed or sprayed, if it has been pre-frozen or had hormones, antibiotics, saline solution or food dye added to meats and seafood, etc. It is in this area that the U.S. governance is lacking, our health is at risk and our inalienable right of CHOICE is shackled.
Next posting will be on some General Grocery Store Safety and Cost Saving Tips.
See ya next year ;-}