Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Michael Taylor's Views on Food Safety

La Vida Locavore nicely summarizes the views of the new FDA Food Safety guy, Michael Taylor

He says his vision is "rooted in" a 1998 NAS report "Ensuring Safe Food from Production to Consumption." He calls for:

1. Taking a farm-to-table approach to preventing food safety problems;

2. Using risk analysis to better understand potential hazards, design interventions, and prioritize prevention efforts;

3. Collecting necessary data to support risk analysis, through monitoring of the food supply, foodborne illness surveillance, and food safety research;

4. Harnessing the primary role of food producers, processors, retailers and consumers in preventing food safety problems;

5. Implementing preventive process control, such as HACCP, throughout the food industry;

6. Establishing science-based food safety performance standards;

7. Carrying out a modern inspection program to support the vigorous enforcement of food safety standards;

8. Integrating food safety efforts among federal, state, and local food safety agencies;

9. Allocating government food safety efforts and resources in relation to risk and opportunities to reduce risk; and

10. Observing sound food safety practices at the final preparation and consumption stage through well-informed commercial food handlers and consumers.

And here's the thing... these are all good ideas, IF they are applied properly. IF you identify that major risks in our system are unhealthy conditions in factory farms and fast line speeds in slaughterhouses and eliminate those risks, you will probably make real progress towards a safe food supply. But is Taylor willing to do that? Is anybody in our government? So far, no.

Furthermore, I question the government's ability (or interest in) applying these principles to small, independent producers.

The government tends to craft laws in a way that are most suitable for large corporations, but they apply them to everybody. I'm not saying that small producers cannot cause foodborne illness or that they are inherently safe, but I'm saying that we have a trade-off to consider. We should either regulate the little guys fairly or not regulate them at all (instead of regulating them unfairly, with laws written for big corporations).

For the full report, click here

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