__ November 2014 (date)
Safety of food supply is very important for any country in the world. Every government considers it to be the one of the most important tasks, as safety of food supply influences the health and well-being of the nation. There are many authorities dealing with it in the US, however, the country still faces significant problems with the food supply safety. Nowadays, the US has an important task to protect its people from the threats of the food supply. The task is so difficult that the government might be approaching crisis in this respect. The authority is faced with the necessity to supply affordable and sufficient food to feed citizens of the US and, at the same time, protect people from pathogens and chemicals that attack food supply.
Food safety means the pursuit of unadulterated, wholesome, uncontaminated, and clean food that humans can consume. Safe food is a food that will not result into illness after its consumption. Food that is safe should not cause the food borne diseases. Physical, biological and chemical hazards can threaten the food’s safety. The most typical threat to the food’s safety is caused by biological hazards that include pathogens that can become the reason of diseases by either infecting or intoxicating food. When these pathogens infect food, it can significantly increase the morbidity and mortality rates. Most of the food infection incidents come from infections by different bacteria such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli, and viruses called Calicivirus. The protection from these pathogens can be made with the help of active packaging, where they are detected due to the small windows situated on the packaging. The active packaging contains antibodies that attack the enzymes and metabolites produced by viruses or bacteria.
US Food Supply Safety System consists of many authorities. According to the US government expert Robert Longley, “ensuring safety of food supply is one of those functions of government we only see when it fails”. Taking into consideration that the US is one of the best-supplied nations, outbreaks of food-borne illnesses are rather rare and controlled. Critics of the US safety system of food supply often make accent on its multi-agency structure. They say that it often prevents the food safety system from working efficiently. Food quality and safety in the US is governed by around 30 federal regulations and laws managed by 15 agencies.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have primary responsibility for the control of US food supply safety. Additionally, all the states have own regulations, laws and agencies dealing with food safety. The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are responsible for investigating nationwide and localized foodborne illnesses’ outbreaks. The USDA is responsible primarily for the meat, poultry and certain egg products safety. USDA's authority comes from the Poultry Products Inspection Act, Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act. USDA controls all meat, egg and poultry products that are sold, and re-inspects imported poultry, meat and egg products in order to make sure they meet standards of the US safety. In the plants of egg processing, the USDA controls eggs after and before they are broken for processing. “USDA makes inspections of slaughter facilities and controls each slaughtered poultry carcass and meat. They visit each processing facility not less than once during each working day. However, federal law does not determine the inspections frequency for foods under FDA's control” (Longley).
The FDA is authorized by the Public Health Service Act and the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and regulates products other than the poultry and meat products controlled by the USDA. FDA is also in charge of the safety of medical devices, drugs, biologics, cosmetics, animal feed and drugs, and radiation emitting devices. The Centers for Disease Control investigates foodborne illnesses and outbreaks, gathers data on foodborne illnesses, and is responsible for prevention efforts in the decreasing of foodborne illnesses. CDC also takes part in building local and state health department of epidemiology, environmental health capacity and laboratory for control of the foodborne disease outbreaks. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances (OPPTS)’s mission is to protect people’s health and the environment.
The list of other agencies that ensure safe food supply includes: Department of Agriculture (Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), National Agricultural Library (NAL) USDA/FDA Food Safety Information Center), other agencies (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) FDA / DHHS, Department of Homeland Security DHHS, Federal Trade Commission, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Department of Commerce).
Responsibilities of food safety system include a lot of tasks, such as control whether pesticides used in the production of foods are safe; establishment of the indexes, the maximum quantity of pesticide that may remain on crops and animal products; control of the proper usage of pest management techniques applied on crops; establishment of the standards and regulations for safe drinking water” (www.foodinsight.org).
The US food safety system consists of many organizations that sometimes duplicate each other’s responsibilities. Thus, the system cannot work well and provide the necessary protection. According to the United States Government Accountability Office “recently, many proposals have been made from the Congress and others to reform current laws and consolidate the structure of government to ensure the safe food supply. The current structure of the system is fragmented and is the reason of inefficient resources using, ineffective coordination and inconsistent oversight and enforcement. It would be good if the Congress considers organizational and statutory reforms, and the success of creation of a single national system of the food supply regulation will outweigh the expenses” (Robinson).
Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Foods has become an important issue for the US food supply safety system in the recent years. There are a lot of controversial discussions around biotechnology and genetically modified foods. It has its supporters and opponents. On the one hand, genetically modified food and biotechnology are a viable option to protect the food supply in the US. The gene-splicing methods used by genetically modified foods give possibility to the scientists to implement genes into food and to take care of the effects of the environment, such as diseases, insect infestation and drought. Due to the foods modifying, the food production is increasing and improving the quantity of vital nutrients. Biotechnology is improving the hybridization techniques that are inefficient and time consuming. Genetic modification removes the unwanted features from food and increases the food production. Genetic modification provides an improved means to feed the US citizens and reduce harmful influence of pesticide rests and fertilizers. Genetically modified food resists pests, and thus decreases cost of pesticides for the farmers. In addition, genetically modified food may be useful for the nature as the chemicals will not be put into the ground. According to the information of the Food and Drug Administration agency of the USA, it has approved over fifty genetically modified foods: sweet corn, tomatoes, sugar beets, soybeans, squash, potatoes, cotton seed oils, papayas, etc. Now the biologists are working on producing genetically modified foods that can resist bacteria caused diseases, viruses and fungi. On the other hand, those opposed to this biotechnology say that it can result into safety issues and food integrity, increased allergies and potential illnesses. The critics state that although biotechnology will increase the food supply, the long-term impact is not known yet. Nations worldwide try to cope with the critics’ concerns, as they still face the heightened food demand. Many nations banned genetically modified foods due to the agricultural concerns. That means that genetically modified foods can be neither imported, nor manufactured inside the country. In some countries there is a marking on the food packaging stating that the product is free of genetically modified organisms. Scientists definitely have to study the long-term influence of the genetically modified foods upon the human health in order to be on the safe side.
Agro-terrorism and Bioterrorism is another important issue for the US food supply safety that present a significant threat. It may cause the adulteration or intentional poisoning of food to provoke death or illness. The likelihood of these acts is rather high, and it may threaten the supply of food. The government is ready to take measures regarding such an event in case it happens: “after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the federal agencies of food safety have taken on the added responsibility regarding the potential contamination of food products and agriculture - bioterrorism. An executive order signed by President George W. Bush in 2001 inserted the food industry into the list of sectors that require protection from possible attacks of terrorists. Due to this document, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security that now ensures coordination for protecting the food supply in the U.S. from potential deliberate contamination” (Longley).
The unsafe supply of food is killing the US citizens. “Legislation has given the FDA authority to prevent foodborne deaths and illnesses. Nevertheless, large quantity of our food supply is still unsafe. According to the statistics, at least 310,000 US citizens annually die due to diet-related problems and the FDA doesn’t have the will or clout to change it. The 3,000 deaths and 130,000 hospitalizations annually happen because of the foodborne illness, but it is a miniscule in comparison with the other deaths due to our diet. At least 310,000 US citizens die and many more get sick due to the diet-related reasons such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, strokes, hypertension and some cancers. The large problem with our supply of food is not pathogens, but the processed food. We’re being killed not by salmonella, E. coli, or campylobacter, but by the contents of the boxes, bags, and fast-food clamshells that managed to become nourishment in the US society.
During the last decades, our diet has changed unprecedentedly. Around 70 percent of the calories come from processed food, with the large quantities of salt, fat, sugar, strange additives, etc. Much of our supply of food is not safe. The FDA did not do anything to control the large quantities of sodium that goes into processed food, and still allows usage of fat into products. There are substances in our meals that are efficiently used as manufacturing aids or preservatives, but that makes bad impact on people’s health. While we are waiting for the slow movements of government to begin with better regulation of what the industry is allowed to sell as food, our diet is making a lot of Americans overweight and sick.
Despite the above-described facts, the possibility to eat healthy food is available to everybody, if they are willing to do it. The processed food can have a role in our modern lives. However, if people care about their health, the consumption of processed food should not be near 70 percent. It should be close to 20-30 percent. Only in this case we can call the food supply really safe” (Warner).
The supply chain of food should be controlled on all the stages, as the danger may come from anywhere. There are a lot of people and locations involved in the supply chain and each of them should be responsible for the end product consumed by the citizens. “The supply chain of food is very similar to other supply chains. There are raw materials, production, finished goods, sales and distribution and an end consumer in it. Besides the similarities there are also differences that distinguish it. Now there is an accent in the supply chain of food for its safety at all stages of the supply chain. In order to make food safe, the food growers, manufacturers, suppliers, importers and distributors should work together to ensure that the end product is safe for consumption” (Murray).
According to the scholars, “a successful, modern strategy of food safety must put prevention of food safety issues the main focus of the system; constantly update priorities so the resources are dedicated to the areas of most significant risk and hazard; develop standards and best practices; invest in investigations to continually update standards and practices to keep informed with changes in the industry and the food supply; move from the existing inspection practices that are focused on limited inspections at processing plants and end products to strategic inspection of foods during the whole process of the food processing and production processes through “control points” ('Fixing Food Safety: PROTECTING AMERICA’S FOOD SUPPLY FROM FARM-TO-FORK').
The above described facts show that safety of food supply is very important for the US as well as for any other country of the world. The US Government makes a lot of effort and allocates a lot of costs to protect people from the danger caused by the food safety issues. The results of its work are obvious; however, there are still a lot of problems. One of the most important tasks for the government is to provide strict control on all the stages of food production and processing. Another important problem is the possibility of terrorism that is considered and studied by the corresponding authorities. The optimization of the US food supply safety system is also an important task at the moment, as the old one is not effective enough. The US citizens can also participate in reducing of harmful effects of modern food traditions on their health by reducing the part of processed food consumed by them to the level of no more than 20-30 percent.
'Fixing Food Safety: PROTECTING AMERICA’S FOOD SUPPLY FROM FARM-TO-FORK'. PREVENTING EPIDEMICS. PROTECTING PEOPLE. (2008): 1-4. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Longley, Robert. 'The US Food Safety System'. http://usgovinfo.about.com/. N.p., 2014. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Murray, Martin. 'Food Safety In The Supply Chain'. http://logistics.about.com/. N.p., 2014. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Robinson, Robert A. 'OVERSEEING THE U.S. FOOD SUPPLY. Steps Should Be Taken To Reduce Overlapping Inspections And Related Activities'. http://www.gao.gov/ (2005): 19-20. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
Warner, Melanie. 'Our Unsafe Food Supply Is Killing Us'. http://www.thedailybeast.com/. N.p., 2013. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
www.foodinsight.org,. 'ENSURING A SAFE FOOD SUPPLY: A CONCISE GUIDE TO THE U.S. FOOD REGULATORY SYSTEM'. N.p., 2014. Print.