An Associated Press story today entitled "Government Never Improved Produce Inspections After Deadly E-Coli Outbreak" discusses the current state of food inspections, particularly leafy greens. According to the article:
"AP’s review of data obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act found that federal officials inspect companies growing and processing salad greens an average of just once every 3.9 years. Some proposals in Congress would require such inspections at least four times a year."
This month, hopefully, Congress will step up to the plate and finalize some FDA reforms aimed at the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries with the goal of improving safety. With that piece of business off their collective plate, one has to wonder whether or not the next target will be the food industry. Beyond e-coli, there have been a number of food-related issues this year that call into question not only home-grown greens, but the importation of foods such as fish and feed for animals. This puts the range of reform-minded individuals everything from inspection practices to bio-terror and safety issues.
How do we stop tainted products being processed at home at the same time we ensure that adulterated products do not enter our food chain from beyond our shores, as happened this year?
My guess is that with some of the heat off the pharmaceutical industry given PDUFA reforms, food reforms may be the next thing Congress cooks up. That should keep the new "food czar" David Acheson at FDA in the public eye for the coming year.