Food (Safety) Fight
By: richard raymond
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Recall politics

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

Mandatory recalls. Is this really about food safety, or is it all about appearances?

Last week Meatingplace listed concerns the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) have with the proposed Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, introduced by Congressmen Dingell and Waxman.

One little blog cannot begin to discuss the proposed legislation, or even AMI's and NCBA's listed concerns. But one common concern of these two associations was granting FDA mandatory recall authority. To me, this is window dressing on a problem that is basically non-existent. It is put in the proposal to satisfy the advocacy groups that mistakenly think this will improve the safety of the food you and I eat.

If you ask the FDA to list the number of times that their request of a company to do a recall was refused, they will answer: "Only once, but it could happen again. The product the company refused to recall? Cat food !!! What does that have to do with food safety? The answer I received was that some infant, crawling around the pantry, might get into the cat food and eat it.

For years the FDA and FSIS testified in front of Congress, saying neither entity needed mandatory recall authority. So what changed in the last few years to create a change in attitude about mandatory recalls at the FDA? The increase in recalls and illnesses attributed to produce, that is what changed.

Since creating a system that will improve the safety of those foods that do not have a kill step of cooking in the home will be costly and time consuming, a bone was tossed to those clamoring for change to keep the barking attackers at bay. (Maybe a bone and barking are bad symbols, since the refusal was for cat food, not dog food, but I think you get my message.)

And by the way, FSIS still says they do not need mandatory recall authority since they can seize product, and historically no company has ever refused to recall a product when asked, but they are nervous they may be included in this change. And that could actually be dangerous to our health, since many proposals for mandatory recall authority include waiting periods for hearings to be held and a judge to decide.


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