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Looking Ahead

A document for your consideration:

  • United States Government Accountability Office. FEDERAL OVERSIGHT OF FOOD SAFETY -- High-Risk Designation Can Bring Needed Attention to Fragmented System. Statement of David M. Walker Comptroller General of the United States. Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives; Thursday, February 8, 2007 at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d07449t.pdf.
  • FDA Strategic Plan  2014-2018.  "This document provides an overarching Agency-level view of how FDA is addressing the public health challenges we face."
  • FSIS 2017-2021
  • Food Safety Market Research Reports & Industry Analysis

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Overall Summary

The following points are offered as an overall summary of the discussions on this web site.

Neither government nor industry will ever guarantee the safety of food.  The best that can be done is to reduce the risk of unsafe food.  This understanding (i.e., never can guarantee that food is safe) and objective (i.e., reduce the risk of unsafe food) appear to be emerging globally.

A common practice for reducing the risk of unsafe food is for food businesses to assess the risk, manage the risk, communicate the risks, and communicate if a crisis arises.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) has emerged as the standard practice for reducing the risk of unsafe food but even this practice continues to be refined as industry and government gain experience; for example, consider the breadth of HACCP as described in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.

  • Implementing HACCP is generally the responsibility of the food industry; government addresses whether industry is implementing practices to identify and reduce risk (e.g., HACCP), and whether adulterated and misbranded foods are being separated from consumers.

U.S. government generally enacts legislation in response to a food safety problem.  As a consequence, the food industry has been unintentionally divided into sectors with each sector being regulated differently.

  • Consumers are not regulated but are instead educated and informed.  The information not only is in the form of food labels, but also advertising, promotional brochure, placards at retail sites, etc.
  • The retail/food service sector is highly regulated by state government but with guidance from the FDA in the form of the Food Code.  The Food Code is underpinned by HACCP concepts.
  • The food processing sector is highly regulated by either the USDA FSIS (meat and poultry) or the FDA (other foods).  HACCP underpins these regulatory schemes.
  • The agricultural production sector has traditionally been unregulated in terms of whether the ag commodity will lead to a safe food product; the emphasis in the past has been voluntary and but focused on quality.
    • Increasingly, producers are expected to also consider how their practices impact the safety of the final food product.  In addition, there is pressure for producers to consider how their practices impact the natural environment, the sector's laborers, the treatment and handling of animals, and other concerns beyond quality and safety.
    • Producers are expected to voluntarily consider these concerns (e.g., GAP) but increasingly, processors are imposing these concerns on producers through market forces (e.g., contractual expectations that GAP is being followed).
    • There are a few situations where these concerns are imposed on producers in the form of mandatory regulations.
  • Food safety extends beyond "farm to fork"; for example, food safety also considers the inputs used by agricultural producers, such as animal drugs, pesticides, and biotechnology.

The responsibility for safe food is imposed on the industry.  The consequence of unsafe food is loss of market opportunities, having to compensate impacted consumers, and possibly enforcement action by government.

Email David.Saxowsky@ndsu.edu

This material is intended for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for competent legal counsel. Seek appropriate professional advice for answers to your specific questions.

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