How Safe Is Our Food And Who Is Truly To Blame?


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As consumers, we rely on the producers to supply us with a safe and healthy product. By the time the products appear on the shelves of supermarkets, we trust that the product underwent all the necessary safety tests and is safe for consumption. Never do we aspire that the products we consume daily will cause us harm. In the event that our food and drinks are contaminated, we rely on the producers again to take the appropriate measures to correct the problem and avoid further harm. This is our rights as consumers.

High Profile Contamination Scare

This was also the case with Fonterra, the largest producers of dairy products in the world. Bacteria contaminated a whey product that is used in certain sport drinks and infant formula. The bacterium can cause botulism, a sometimes fatal disease. The products are being recalled while many countries stopped or restricted further import of the products. In a statement issued on 5 August 2013, Fonterra assured consumers about the safety of their products

The Role Of The FDA

This reminds us of the various meat and poultry scares we have faced. Contaminated cow meat that causes Mad Cow Disease, contaminated pork causing Foot and Claw Disease and bird flu that was spread through contaminated Asian ornithological products. This is a cause for alarm, because consumers are losing faith in manufacturers and distributors. The problem has increased at such a rate, that the American Food and Drug Administration issued new rules on safety to avoid food contamination. This includes stricter management over workers hygiene, better planning and management in the event of outbreaks and intensive management over water from farming irrigation systems. In January 2013 they submitted the proposal.

The Role Of The Public

With all the regulations and revisions, it is still up to the consumer to be more aware of safety and hygiene. The FDA can only enforce regulations; they cannot force the consumer to take individual precautions. You need to be aware of the origin of the produce and the health risks involved. In the United Sates, but not limited to the US, informal food stalls are a nuisance to the government as they are not adhering to the health regulations and many of them are neglecting to pay the fines issued to them. To regulate the health conditions of street vendors in Los Angeles, they are bound by a health compliance program.

This is a global phenomenon and not limited to street vendors

There are many restaurants trading illegally due to non-compliance of the health and safety regulations. By supporting these entrepreneurs and businesses, the public is encouraging them to continue trading. As mentioned, even if they do not display the compliance sticker or prohibited from trading, they disregard the punishment given to them. Vendors are a risk to public health if they do not comply with the regulations, but the public is turning a blind eye. Stricter measurements need to be enforced as being fined is an ineffective solution and budget adaptions now needs to provide for collect of the overdue payments.

Funding for Mobile Food Vendor Enforcement Initiative. The Department proposes increased spending of $580,000 in city funds ($326,000 in State funds) in Fiscal 2014 for the Mobile Food Vendor Enforcement Initiative. This initiative represents an effort to address the large number of permit holders believed to be using permits unlawfully while law-abiding entities are unable to enter the market due to the permit cap. Legal teams within both DOHMH and the Law Department will collaborate to identify bad actors, compile violation/case history, and pursue legal proceedings. The Department proposes to add the following seven positions, six attorneys and one City Research Scientist (for data/analytic support) that will prepare and argue cases at ECB, which should result in permit revocations or settlements. This new enforcement unit is expected to improve food permit system with the cost offset by additional fine revenue.

What Came First: The Chicken Or The Egg?

This raises the question of who is in actual control of the health and safety of the public. While the world is upset about contaminated products being distributed from manufacturers, the everyday person, literally on the street, trades in possible contaminated food. The health risks and risks for outbreak of diseases are possibly far greater than distributing potentially harmful produce and recalling it immediately. The circle widens from here as the diseases are spread to families from where it is distributed to farmworkers and laborers, spreading the disease to the produce. It will take more than strict regulations to keep food and drinks free from contamination. It will take a globe working together on all levels to stop contamination in its tracks.


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