Food risk rises as import reliance makes safety harder
It’s becoming harder and harder for regulators to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply, as more and more of our food is imported from outside the country, according to the Institute of Medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration asked the institute to develop a strategy to improve food and drug safety. With a huge portion of our food and medicine – about 85 percent of the seafood Americans buy, for instance, and 18 percent of vegatables – coming from other countries, “the health of Americans are linked to regulators worldwide,” reporter Anna Edney recently wrote in Bloomberg.
The Food and Drug Administration needs to partner with regulators abroad to help bring them up to speed to protect Americans, the institute wrote.
“The integrated global economy demands cooperation across borders -- to thwart terrorists, reduce environmental hazards, and ensure that our food and medical products are safe and effective,” Harvey Fineberg, president of the institute, based in Washington, wrote in the almost 300-page report.
With imports not expected to slow, the institute focused on oversight of countries expected to be major U.S. trading partners, like Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, India, China and Thailand, Edney said.
The FDA itself admits to shortcomings. From Edney:
“The FDA commissioned this study with the frank admission that its methods of ensuring product safety, inspections at factories and ports of entry, are inadequate when regulated products arrive at 300 different ports of entry from over 300,000 factories in 150 different countries,” according to the report, which was written by an institute committee of academics and regulators.
That’s a bleak picture to report, and one likely to spur legislators into action.