Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Center for Science in the Public Interest's
Food Safety Solutions

This latest recall represents a fundamental failure in USDA's mission to keep sick animals out of the human food supply. On-site USDA inspectors apparently failed to stop these practices for two years, resulting in the biggest recall in our nation's history. Following 18 months of food scares, ranging from tainted spinach to poisoned pet food, this massive meat recall is proof positive that Congress must fully fund and remake our food safety agencies. Here are five steps necessary to improve food safety:

1. Modernize the food inspection program to make it comprehensive and effective, from farm to table. It should include product sampling and a risk-based schedule for inspections with clear authority for inspectors to travel from the farms to foreign countries to ensure the safety of the US food supply.

2. Require all food growers and processors to implement mandatory process controls to prevent food contamination. Any one who wants to produce food for sale in the U.S. should have a food safety management plan, written and subject to auditing by its customers, and state and federal regulators.

3. Give USDA and FDA (or a new agency) mandatory recall and tracking authority over the food supply. Ensure that both agenices can track tainted products to their source and also require companies to recall product with full information going to the public on where recalled products were sold.

4. Toughen the penalties for violating food safety laws and for producing, processing or knowingly selling tainted products. Existing statutes have only a patchwork of fines and penalties -- decades old, andclearly not effective.

5. Put all these elements in a modern food safety law passed by Congress, creating strong federal oversight by a single federal agency with an increased budget that coordinates with state and foreign governments to ensure safe food in this country, whether the food is domestically produced or imported.

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