Food Safety Modernization Act, Promising to Protect Our Food

Not long after I penned my last post about pest management in food plants (Are Your Food Processing Accounts Audit Ready?), Herb Kohl, my senator, dropped me an email.

Surprised? I’m tempted to say that he, like you, loyal reader, is a follower of my blog, and that prompted his message to me.

factory-825676 zoom smallBut, I have a sinking suspicion that his email was just forwarded to all of his constituents, without any regard for my blog. (Which raises yet another question – how is it that Senator Kohl knows my email address? I don’t recall registering with his office. But there has been that odd black helicopter outside each morning when I get up. I wonder….)

Back to the mailbag. Senator Kohl writes:

Over the last few years, it seems nearly every time I pick up a newspaper there is a headline about a food-borne illness that has sickened consumers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are 76 million new cases of food-related illness in the United States each year. These illnesses and the product recalls associated with them have rattled consumer confidence in the quality and safety of the food we eat. This is unacceptable.

Working in food safety from a pest management standpoint, when I hear reports like the Peanut Corporate of America debacle, it tears me apart, especially because the majority of food plants are clean, well-kept, and pest-free. But, I get it. Not all are like that, and truly, the government has largely left food safety in food plants be a matter of caveat emptor for the companies they supply food to, who have turned to the private sector for food safety inspections.

Today, the Senate passed S.510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which helps restore confidence in the safety of our food supply. This bill creates a global system where taxpayer resources focus inspections on the riskiest steps in food processes and helps clarify federal jurisdictions relating to food safety to prevent contaminated food from ever making it onto our plates. It better situates the federal government to respond to outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, by setting up an improved system to track and trace the source of contaminated food, and by giving the FDA authority to issue mandatory recalls of contaminated products.

This could be good news, all depending upon how it is executed. Empowering the FDA is a step in the right direction, so they can be more than a paper tiger.

No one should get sick from the spinach, peppers or peanut butter they eat. And no parent should have to be concerned about whether their groceries will end up making their children sick, or worse. The United States still has the safest food in the world, but it is our responsibility to ensure that where there are problems, we provide solutions. This bill, which was long overdue, takes positive steps forward to ensure the safety of our food supply and will help restore consumer confidence.

Thank you, Senator. I agree completely. However, bear in mind that we can’t eliminate pest contamination and disease from food, but rather, only reduce it down to hopefully inconsequential levels.