Monday, June 27, 2011

FDA's Unenviable Task of Protecting Our Food Supply

While eating locally has gained popularity in the last several years, the reality is that more of our food is coming from far away, a logistical nightmare for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is charged with keeping our food supply safe. According to a recent report from the FDA:
"Between 10% and 15% of all food consumed by United States (U.S.) households is imported from abroad. Nearly two-thirds of the fruits and vegetables--and 80% of seafood--eaten domestically come from outside the U.S. Half of all medical devices used in this country are imported, while 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients in medications sold here are manufactured elsewhere."
The numbers will most likely continue to grow:
"Just a decade ago, 6 million shipments of FDA-regulated goods passed through the nation’s 300 ports of entry. This year the number will quadruple to 24 million shipments. Each year over the last seven years, food imports have grown by an average of 10%, while imports of pharmaceutical products have increased at nearly 13% and devices have grown at over 10%. Between 2007 and 2015, it is estimated that imports of FDA-regulated products will triple, corresponding to a 15% growth rate."
To meet this increase, the FDA is changing how it does business in an effort to better protect us from food-borne illnesses and questionable products:
"In order to cope with the magnitude of the fundamental shifts on the horizon, the agency is committed to substantially and fundamentally revising its approach to global product safety and quality. Over the next decade, FDA will transform itself from a domestic agency operating in a globalized world to a truly global agency fully prepared for a regulatory environment in which product safety and quality know no borders."
Let's hope the FDA gets this right (and is afforded the money to do so). Click here to read a detailed summary of the FDA's "Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality."

By the way, the image above shows the possible journey of canned tuna fish; click on the image for more detail.

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