Food (Safety) Fight Blog
By: Richard Raymond

Chchchchanging who inspects what

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Everyone wants a safer food supply, and everyone has their thoughts on how to achieve this lofty goal.
Some ideas cost too much to have a chance in this economic climate. Others involve battles over turf and location of a new single agency. Still others involve the current food safety workforce and jobs that might be lost. And, quite frankly, all involve change, and to some, big change is scary. So let's think about something fairly simple, that  would not cost huge bucks, would not cost jobs, and would involve only a little bit of turf.


The USDA knows animal health, and meat and poultry inspection. The FDA knows produce, and has most of the federal government's expertise in the canning process. Yet USDA has Catfish regulation and inspection, and FDA has Tilapia. USDA has regulation and inspection of egg products, while FDA has shell eggs. USDA has regulation of chicken vegetable soup, and FDA has tomato soup.


For discussion purposes, let's consider giving the USDA all animal and animal products and giving the FDA all produce and canned products. That would mean that FSIS would not only have meat and poultry, but would assume regulation and inspection of ALL fish and seafood, all egg products and all dairy products.


With these changes, the discussion and confusion of who inspects a cheese pizza vs. a pepperoni pizza has just ended. The debate over zero tolerance for Listeria in deli cheeses vs. deli meats has disappeared. And the confusion and debate over why USDA has Catfish, but no other seafood or fish gets resolved.


Issues of concern around organic and natural labeling for dairy products would now be under the single roof of USDA’s Whitten Building as would labeling issues surrounding shell eggs.


Imports of fish and seafood would all be under the jurisdiction of the USDA, at least clarifying to our international trading partners what the rules for exporting to the United States are, and making those rules consistent for all species.


Most importantly, this redesigned structure allows both the USDA and the FDA to focus on what they do best, and to specialize more appropriately while at the same time, removing much of the confusion of who does what. It would also, quite frankly, remove some of the criticism that comes from the dual jurisdiction plants and the designation of amenability to certain species by the Federal Meat Inspection Act.


What do you think?

4/7/2009 3:11 PM 


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