By: John Verlinden/TRT Cuisine Expert–
Our food supply isn’t always as safe as we’d like. Each year nearly 80 million Americans get sick from food. 2011 was a particularly bad year. More people died from last summer’s cantaloupe listeria episode than ever before in U.S. history and the sprouts e-coli incident in Europe was the world’s deadliest.
Fortunately, thanks to government standards, compliance inspections and responsible industry practices, food in the U.S. is remarkably safe. But our system is clearly under stress.
Strains of disease seem to be getting more potent, and because our food supply chain is now worldwide it can no longer be effectively managed and policed. When outbreaks occur the size and complexity of today’s food production and distribution system make it increasingly difficult to recall all infected food and to identify the source of contamination.
A wonderful benefit of globalization is the great abundance and variety of foods available. We now enjoy fresh produce year-round and processed foods from around the globe. An average U.S. supermarket carries about 40,000 different items. The challenge is how to keep all those items safe.
What to watch for — to reduce spending and bring down deficits, candidates are proposing cuts to agencies and programs. Regulatory agencies are under particular scrutiny as some see government oversight as an impediment to efficient business operations and job growth.
Know where candidates stand on important food safety issues.
Do they support/oppose cuts to FDA and USDA inspection and enforcement services? To State and local public health agencies? These agencies are already under-resourced. USDA meat inspectors can’t keep up and the FDA checks less than 2% of all food imports.
Who will they appoint to lead these agencies? And, what have they proposed to strengthen food safety systems?
Will they support World Health Organization efforts to establish international food safety standards?
Next month we’ll take a look at clean water concerns. Share your thoughts about things we can do to ensure the availability of fresh water, ask a question or suggest a topic for a future article – contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.muchogusto.com and join our food forum.
Until next time – ¡Mucho Gusto!, ¡Muchas Gracias! y ¡Buen Provecho!