As most readers of the Food Poison Journal are aware, change is afoot in Washington, D.C. over the future regulation of the US’s food safety system. From President Obama’s recently-formed Food Safety Working Group to Congress’s proposed Food Safety Enhancement Act and FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, the issue of food safety has—after years of neglect—finally made its way to the head of the table. And we couldn’t be happier.

I was therefore particularly pleased today when I was sent Hungry For Change from American Bar Association Journal writer, Kristin Choo. Kristin tackles the subject of food safety from multiple angles—consumers, industry, and government—spending a large portion of her article discussing the current state of food safety regulation and the approaching changes to that fractured system that will hopefully coming to fruition. As optimistically stated by Marler Clark’s managing partner, William Marler, “We have a Congress that’s interested, a president who’s interested and perhaps more importantly, business is interested in it as well.” 

I particularly appreciate her not-so-hypothetical highlight of the absurdity in current food safety funding and resource allocation:

From the beginning, the USDA was given more power and money than the FDA, and that remains the case today. While regulating about 20 percent of the food supply, the USDA is allocated twice the amount of money as the FDA, which is responsible for the other 80 percent of the food supply, according to the Gov­ern­ment Account­ability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Further, every facility that produces or handles meat, poultry or eggs is required to have a hazards analysis and critical-control-points plan that identifies vulnerable links in the food processing chain and institutes safety measures to counteract the risk. The FDA requires such plans for dairy products and seafood, but not for produce.

This leads to some peculiar outcomes. An open-faced, packaged chicken sandwich, for instance, is considered a meat product and regulated by the USDA, which would inspect the sandwich manufacturer daily. A packaged chicken sandwich with an extra slice of bread on it would fall under the purview of the FDA, which might inspect the manufacturer of the sandwich an average of once every five years.

Head over to the ABA site and read Kristin’s article in full.