The Washington Post reported today on the Bush Administration’s decision to ramp up inspections of products, including food, being imported into the United States. The decision comes after several products imported from China were recalled in recent months. According to the Washington Post:
The plan is something of a departure for the administration, which has generally opposed increasing regulation. Its import-safety proposal aims to keep hazardous food and products from entering the country through targeted inspections of high-risk products or producers, and increased cooperation with foreign governments and among U.S. agencies.
Although the plan includes some proposals being considered by Congress, such as making it illegal to sell recalled products, it fell short of advocating many of the changes Democratic lawmakers have called for, including consolidating the disjointed system for food safety into a single agency.
Prospects for the administration plan are unclear. Some proposals would require action by the Democratic Congress. And the cost of the plan will not be determined until the administration releases its fiscal 2009 budget next year.
But the safety of imported food should not overshadow issues involving American companies producing unsafe food for Americans. Investigative reporters Dave Savini and Michelle Youngerman from Chicago’s CBS 2 and the Naperville Sun followed Chicago-area food delivery trucks and looked into the safety of the products these trucks were delivering over a four-month period. The investigation into Chicago-area food safety revealed some remarkable truths about the US food supply:
The CBS2/Sun investigation uncovered repeated temperature violations while meat was in transport. CBS2 surveillance cameras caught restaurant and grocery store owners shipping meat out of state in trunks of cars, in minivans and non-refrigerated trucks while temperatures outside reached as high as 95 degrees.
Also uncovered in the probe was a lack of food inspectors to investigate after trucks hauling meat are involved in crashes and refrigeration units are destroyed.
In one case, 30,000 pounds of turkey – destined to be turned into deli meat – sat in warm September temperatures for six and a half hours. CBS2 cameras documented boxes of turkey that were crushed and meat that was exposed, thawing and dripping from the heat.
The load became tainted when the truck struck a viaduct near Chicago’s stockyard district. No food inspector was called, as Illinois law mandates. Instead it was transferred to a new refrigerated trailer, cooled down overnight, then shipped the next day to a Chicago warehouse operated by Ashland Cold Storage.
As Bill Marler, food safety lawyer, said yesterday, "The reality is that nearly every major foodborne illness outbreak has been “home grown.” USA food companies do a great job of poisoning fellow countrymen – 76,000,000 a year according to the CDC."