The government plays a key role in ensuring the safety of the food people consume. Despite the efforts of food industry personnel, federal regulators and watchful consumers, virulent disease-causing bacteria continue to penetrate the food supply and to threaten Americans with debilitating and sometimes fatal infections. Even so, each year, millions of Americans become ill and 9,000 die as a result of food poisoning. Consumer and business interests are not always in conflict, but a recent controversy has highlighted the debate over food safety and the government's appropriate role. The U.S. food supply is widely regarded as the world's safest.
Factors Analysis for Food Inspection and Certification
Food safety jumped to the top of the nation's agenda in January 1993, when four children died and hundreds of people became ill after eating undercooked hamburgers from Jack in the Box restaurants, a fast-food chain, in the Northwest. The burgers were found to have been contaminated with a deadly strain of bacteria, E. coli0157:H7. In November 1996, a 16-month-old Colorado girl died and more than 70 people became ill after drinking apple juice made by San Francisco-based Odwalla Inc. that was tainted with E. coli bacteria. Then in August 1997, consumers witnessed the largest food recall in U.S. history when Hudson Foods Inc., a beef distributor, had to destroy 25 million pounds (11 million kilograms) of ground beef that had been processed at its plant in Columbus, Neb. The recall was prompted when hamburgers tainted with E. coli sickened 17 people in Colorado.
Imported food poses a particular safety risk that the government has not addressed, critics claim. They point to an FDA study, released in 2003, which examined domestic and imported food and found that 6.1% of the imported food was contaminated with either salmonella or shigella bacteria, compared with 2.4% of the domestic foods. A number of recent food scares have originated in China, a leading exporter of food to the U.S. The FDA, which oversees pet food in the U.S., banned wheat gluten imported from China.
In 2007, the deaths of a large number of cats and dogs estimated to range from hundreds to thousands, though official numbers are not known were linked to pet food containing melamine, a toxic chemical used in plastics. Subsequent investigation revealed that two Chinese companies had added melamine to the wheat gluten and rice protein they sold to pet-food makers, as a way of maximizing profits. Experts have recommended that the USDA adopt a procedure known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP). Public response to the proposed HACCP rule ...