After a season of contaminated salad greens and poisoned pomegranates, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finally announced a concrete plan to modernize the food safety system.
After 400 reports of Hepatitis A infection from across the nation were linked to imported pomegranate seeds from Turkey, the FDA realized that it was time to make a change.
Following President Obama signing off on the bipartisan Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA proposed two rules that aimed to ensure that imported food meets the same safety standards as food produced in the U.S.
The new FSMA approach will focus on preventative action rather than relying on responding to crises after the fact and repairing the damage. The FDA hopes to make this shift by requiring safety checks throughout the supply chain in the food’s country of origin.
The pomegranate incident, however, challenges this “new and improved” food safety system’s credibility, because the companies that imported the contaminated seeds have already claimed to be taking the preventative steps necessary to minimize food safety hazards. Costco and Townsend Farms, the main distributors of the contaminated pomegranates, routinely audit their suppliers through outside experts, according to an international code of safety.
This proves, then, that even a well-structured food safety system is not foolproof. At the very least, the FDA hopes that these new rules will make companies take food safety much more seriously.
If anything, this realization should convince people to eat locally as much as possible in order to reduce the risk of contamination associated with imported foods.