Feb 7, 2015

Our Screwed Up Food Safety System

I have just finished reading an article in the New Yorker called A Bug in the System/Why last night’s chicken makes you sick, and it should have been titled A Bug in the System/Why Food “safety” in the U.S. Makes You Sick.  It is in the February 2nd edition of the magazine and worth reading.  But I just wanted to share a few of the things that would be hilarious, if they weren’t true.

- There isn’t a single Department responsible for food safety.  There is the U.S.D.A.s Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.), the Department of Health and Human Services and the one which we are more broadly aware of , the F.D.A.  These are the most important.  There are a total of fifteen agencies responsible for food safety.

Here are some of the absurdities:

F.S.I.S. inspects meat and poultry.  Fish are the province of the F.D.A.  EXCEPT catfish, which are the responsibility of F.S.I.S.

Frozen cheese pizza is monitored by the F.D.A. BUT frozen cheese pizza WITH PEPPERONI is monitored by F.S.I.S.

Bagel dogs are F.D.A.  Corn dogs are F.S.I.S.

Here’s the most ridiculous:  The skin of a link sausage is F.S.I.S. but the meat inside is F.D.A.

These were just the examples the author gave an article that also discussed that the performance standard for salmonella in ground chicken is 44.6 percent.  In ground turkey it is 49.9%.   That kind of negates all the good you are trying to do by eating ground turkey instead of ground beef (which, by the way, the author says is now safer because they have had to get their act together because of all the suits.)

Here’s something twisted:  In 2013, the F.S.I.S. unveiled a new Salmonella Action Plan, which would reduce (that’s right, reduce) the number of inspectors observing the production at slaughterhouses.  The person responsible told the author, “this also forces the plants to do their own testing.”

Okay, if you thought Congress was bad… the whole thing is FUBAR.


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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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