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At a time when there are growing concerns over future food shortages and food waste, the added worry of food being unsafe to eat is one more reality Americans must face in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As Civil Eats reported, the FDA, the EPA, and the USDA oversee the nation’s food safety net and regulate pollution from industrial farms. As the agencies have suspended rules meant to prevent foodborne illnesses and industrial pollution in the midst of the outbreak, experts worry that some companies may take advantage of the lull and do less to protect public health and the environment.”
Why This Matters: Lack of adequate food safety regulation can allow industries to self-regulate which has never been a winning strategy for consumer protection. Though the FDA cited that it was rolling back safety inspections to protect its own workers it put out a statement declaring that it has “confidence in the safety and quality of the products we all use every day.” Though without inspections, there’s absolutely no way to be sure about the safety of food products.
The Bigger Problem: What’s happening at the FDA is part of a larger highly fragmented and ineffective food safety inspection system here in the United States. As Civil East explained:
Some large grocery stores and restaurant chains create contracts that require their supply chains to adhere to their own standards.
Often, they do their own checks and mandate the use of certified auditors, though those third-party auditors are paid by the very growers or shippers they inspect.
This fragmented system allows outbreaks to occur, like the myriad e. coli outbreaks originating in produce that the FDA had to investigate last year. COVID-19 is one more crack in that system that has hindered third party inspections, forced companies to reduce costs, and has hindered what limited role federal inspectors may have had.
Food Company and Inspection Workers Are at Risk Too: Some food processing plants have not taken adequate action to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plants like Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, S.D. (where nearly 500 workers have been infected by coronavirus) show how quickly outbreaks can occur in these plants and create risks for local communities when protection is not given to plant workers. This applies to inspectors too. Inspection workers are at risk from food processors’ minimal health protection steps too. USDA workers have been told to not wear masks, and inspectors get very little paid time off or sick days.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer Could the latest food trend be 17 years in the making? That’s right; we’re talking about the Brood X cicadas. Trillions of these odd-looking insects have been emerging from the ground across the eastern U.S. over the past few weeks, and experts say their return presents a perfect opportunity to indulge in some […]
While the fake news about the Biden administration banning beef was making its way around the world, the popular recipe website, Epicurious, has been phasing out recipes for beef for a year and no one squawked until now. They revealed the decision in an article on Monday, saying “We know that some people might assume that […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Food waste is a serious concern in the United States — every year, between 30 and 40% of all food in the country is unsold or uneaten. The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC), ReFED, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), among […]
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