Where Does Our Food Come from?

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Where Does Our Food Come From?

I have gotten into the pattern of trusting the safety of any food that is available for purchase but does my blind trust put my health in jeopardy? It seems that having access to safe and healthy food has always been an assumed right as an American, but why? We have all witnessed food recalls, e-coli outbreaks and heard reports on unsafe food processing practices by US companies. Who is 'approving' this food for American consumption and through which process? What are the penalties for infractions and where can the average American access this information in order to make an informed decision about the food they consume?

Formed in 1906, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of the 6 centers making up the FDA is the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) which works to assure that the food supply is safe, sanitary, wholesome, and honestly labeled. In 1938 the Tugwell bill signed by Teddy Roosevelt, are you sure it was Teddy?! stated that food standards were required to be set up when needed "to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.” This is still the principal foundation of the CFSAN today (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

The FDA inspects food facilities routinely, often in partnership with state regulatory agencies. The frequency is based on the type of facility, the type of food processed or handled at the facility, and the public health risk associated with the product. If a facility is found to need some corrective actions, follow-up inspections are conducted to review the implementation of the corrections. The FDA does not regulate meat and poultry (except for game meats, such as venison, ostrich and snake) nor is the FDA responsible for restaurants or grocery stores (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

Meat and poultry are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Inspections and licensing of restaurants and grocery stores are typically handled by local and county health departments.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been in official operation since 1860. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, as required by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act. Under authority of the Federal Meat, Poultry and Egg Products Inspection Acts, USDA inspects and monitors all meat, poultry and egg products sold in interstate and foreign commerce to ensure compliance with mandatory U.S. food safety standards and inspection legislation (United States Department of Agriculture).

FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are the primary federal agencies “responsible” for regulating our food supply. The agencies work closely with state and local partners, as well as the food industry, to “oversee the safety of food sold in the United States.” The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires food manufacturers and distributors to employ a variety of measures to ensure that their products are “safe, clean, and properly labeled.” The same law empowers FDA to take action to keep “unsafe or misbranded” FDA-regulated food products out of the marketplace (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

Unpredictable events, mechanical and human error, and environmental conditions all play a role in the problems we continue to see in food production, processing, and distribution. FDA works within the industry to ensure products that may cause harm are recalled as quickly as possible. Recalling a food product may mean that a problem has been caught early before it has a chance to become an even greater one.

Unfortunately, as systems for...
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