Confidence in safe food supply slipping

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

More needs to be done by the government to protect the public from contaminated food, a new survey on food safety and labeling has found.

Consumers also want the government to inspect the food supply more often as they are losing confidence in its safety, according to the results of the poll which was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

It follows a recent announcement from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the rules governing the safe manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of food in the US are to be updated in an effort to provide additional protection against food-borne illness.

Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union, said: “The American public wants to know more about their food, where it comes from, how safe it is, and will vote with their dollars to support highly meaningful labels.

“Whether that means that 'organic' fish eat 100 percent organic feed without contamination, or that people know which meat and dairy products come from cloned or genetically engineered animals, consumers want the government to ensure safety, quality and meaning in the food marketplace.”

The Consumers Union, which published the consumer survey report, said that the FDA inspects domestic food production facilities once every five to 10 years and foreign facilities even less frequently. And while US Department of Agriculture must inspect meat plants daily, the FDA has no such requirement for other food processing plants.

However, two-thirds of respondents said the FDA should inspect domestic and foreign food-processing facilities at least once a month.

The survey showed that 73 percent of those polled regard the overall food supply as safe, but 48 percent said their confidence in the safety of the nation's food supply has decreased.

Eighty-three percent of respondents are concerned with harmful bacteria or chemicals in food and 81 percent are concerned with the safety of imported food.

Industry participation

The current good manufacturing practices rules, or food CGMPs, describe the methods, equipment, physical plants, and controls for producing safe processed food and they were last revised in 1986.

The aim is to bring them “up-to-date with modern science and technology” ​and the​FDA said industry participation was critical to accurately identify safe, cost-effective industry practices for modernized food CGMPs.

It is calling on some 2,700 large and small domestic food facilities to take part in a voluntary statistical survey, will assist the FDA in characterizing current food industry practices.

This will seek information about five key issues; employee training; sanitation and personal hygiene; allergen controls; process controls, and recordkeeping.

The Consumer Reports survey of adults was conducted by telephone and 1,001 interviews took place over October 23-26 this year.

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