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Food Safety in the Future

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Introduction to Food Law
Overview of US Food Law
Government "Players" Involved in US Food Law
Requirements for Food Businesses
Producer/Processor/Preparer Liability
Looking Forward/Future Issues


Purpose of this page is to consider future food safety issues such as international standards, biotechnology, bioterrorism, and traceability. It may be helpful to review key points before addressing future issues.

  • Our food system has evolved into a complex set of interactions and relationships; it is not uncommon that many firms and people are involved in the processes used to place food before many of our consumers.
  • Food can be rendered unsafe at just about any point in this food system; thus, everyone involved in the food system has a responsbility to assure their participation in the system does not render the product unsafe. Training for persons working in the food industry is indispensable. Food firms are given the responsibilities of identifying and minimizing food safety risks in their operation, and maintaining documentation to help resolve a problem if and when one should arise.
  • The focus of the first federal food laws in the U.S. addressed the processing sector. Subsequently, states have begun to closely regulate the "food service" sector of the industry. Recent food safety concerns have focused additional attention on the need for agricultural producers to also advance their role in assuring the safety of the final food product.
  • Assuring the safety of food is emerging as global objective.
  • Advancing production, processing and transportation technologies create opportunities to enhance our food system, but they also raise concerns about new risks, lead to more accelerated and dispersed exposure from a single source or incident, and expand concern about intentional attacks on the food system from both internal and external sources.
  • Decisions about food consumption remain the consumers' responsibility but this requires that consumers are provided educational opportunities and accurate information about their food products.

Future issues

  • More international trade (and international standards?)
  • Biotechnology - to ease production or to provide the consumer a better product? The first is happening with herbicide-resistant crop variety; but what about a variety that decreases fat or carbohydrates, or a variety that reduces the risk of cancer, or a variety the replaces pain killers? Will consumers accept these GM foods? How will we distinguish between food and drugs in this new world?
  • Bioterrorism -- intentional attacks on food system
  • Traceability (identity preserved) for a variety of reasons, including food safety and responding to consumer demand.
  • Impact of advancing technology -- products (e.g. GMOs), processing (e.g., manufacturing techniques), transportation (e.g., containers), information (e.g., throughout the food system).
  • Expanded application of HACCP
  • Application of CARVER
  • Direct application of risk analysis, for example see FAO's Food Safety Risk Analysis
    • How direct firms directly apply the three steps of risk management, risk assessment and risk communication?
    • Will application of risk analysis lead to revisions in food law, such as recordkeeping or inspections?
  • Horizontal (generic) standards v. vertical (product-specific or prescriptive) standards
    • U.S. might be described as following a system of vertical product standards; other nations have adopted what might be described as horizontal standards. Does it make sense to use horizontal (generic) standards? How might this trend impact U.S. food law in the future?

Future of Food Laws (from Coleman's notes)

  • Health and wellness (food safety)
  • Global economy -- standardize world food safety standards; as these standards evolve, will they supplant national standards (which in the US supplanted state standards this past century)?
  • Industry responsibility (HACCP) -- food businesses develop and implement their own program for assuring safe food processing

"Under HACCP, a plant analyzes its processes to determine at what points hazards might exist that could affect the safety of its products. These points are called critical control points (CCPs). Examples of critical control points are chilling; the cooking process; processing procedures, such as filling and sealing cans; and certain slaughter procedures, such as removal of internal organs. The location and number of hazards will differ greatly depending on type of facility, foods prepared, processing procedures used, and many other factors. Once the CCPs are identified, the plant must establish critical limits. Critical limits are usually expressed as numbers representing such parameters as time/temperature, humidity, water activity, pH, salt concentration, and chlorine level. Critical limits may be in the regulations, such as the requirement that poultry be chilled to 40 degrees F., or they may be established by the plant based solely on the scientific and technical literature or recommendations of experts. Next, the plant establishes monitoring requirements for each CCP and corrective actions to be taken when monitoring indicates there is a deviation from an established critical limit. Examples of corrective actions are adjusting the process, holding and destroying all product if it cannot be brought into compliance, and developing an alternative process. The plant must also establish record keeping procedures that document the operation of the HACCP system and verify that controls are working as intended.

"Under the new rule, all plants must develop and implement a HACCP plan for each of their processes. HACCP plans must conform to the seven HACCP principles established by the National Advisory Committee for Microbiological Criteria for Foods. (See the HACCP Key Facts.) HACCP plans are required to cover those CCPs that affect product safety, as opposed to those related to economic adulteration, labeling, or quality concerns. Other quality assurance and inspection measures will continue to address these areas. Plants are required to validate their own HACCP plans--that is, ensure that the plans do what they were designed to do. FSIS will not approve HACCP plans in advance but will review them for conformance with the final regulations."


Additional labeling issues

Updated dietary guidelines

Standards based on science

Last updated March 7, 2009

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