Best if printed in landscape.
of the Challenge: Farm-to-Table
challenge of assuring a safe food supply is growing more complex for numerous
reasons, but primarily because the food industry is growing more complicated.
Consider, for example, the number of steps (and entities) involved in
our food system. How many different entities handle a food product as
it progresses from the producer, through processing, shipping, and preparing,
before it reaches the consumers? Likewise, our food system is producing
food products that involve more processing and commingling, e.g., more
items are being brought together to form a single food product.
Also consider the large quantities in which are food is being processed,
the large geographic area from which inputs are acquired, and the large
geographic distribution of the finished product. These examples illustrate
why food safety is a complex challenge. In recent years, it has been further
complicated with the concern that someone may intentionally and maliciously
disrupt our food supply (i.e., bioterrorism).
the following excerpts:
of food contamination are almost as numerous and varied as the contaminants
themselves. Bacteria and other infectious organisms are pervasive in
the environment. Salmonella enteritidis enters eggs directly
from the hen. Bacteria (occasionally pathogenic) inhabit the surfaces
of fruits and vegetables in the field. Molds and their toxic byproducts
can develop in grains during unusually wet or dry growing seasons, damage
and stress during harvesting, or during improper storage. Seafood may
become contaminated from agricultural and other runoff, as well as by
sewage, microorganisms, and toxins present in marine environments. Many
organisms that cause foodborne illness in humans can be part of the
normal flora of the gastrointestinal tract of food-producing animals
without any adverse effects to the animal. Milk, eggs, seafood, poultry,
and meat from food-producing animals may become contaminated due to
contaminated feed, misuse of veterinary drugs, or poor farming practices,
including production and harvesting activities, or disposal of solid
waste on land. Foods may become contaminated during processing due to
malfunctioning or improperly sanitized equipment; misuse of cleaning
materials; rodent and insect infestations; and improper storage. Foods
may become contaminated in retail facilities and in the home through
use of poor food handling practices."
from Food Safety From Farm to Table: A New Strategy for the 21st Century, February 1997.
Secretary shall give high priority to increasing the number of inspections
... for the purpose of enabling the Secretary to inspect food offered
for import ... into the United States, with the greatest priority given
to inspections to detect the intentional adulteration of food."
21 U.S.C. §381(h)(1); included in Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002.
conclusion is that a food safety problem can result from an unsafe agricultural
commodity, such as a spoiled vegetable, meat from a diseased animal, or
chemical residue on the grain. A food safety problem can arise during
the process of transforming a commodity into a food product by what is
added to the food, its method of processing, packaging or storing, or
as a result of numerous other causes. Similarly, food can become unsafe
during its final preparation. Thus a basic premise is that the entire
food system - farm-to-table - needs to take steps to minimize the risk
of a food safety problem.
steps that need to be taken at each stage of the food system will vary.
For example, the current strategy for addressing the risk of unsafe food
in the home is to educate consumers, whereas the strategy for addressing
the sanitation of a food processing facility is government regulation.
Accordingly, food law addresses a wide range of issues with a variety
- Is our food supply
safe? Have we minimized the risk that our food will make us sick?
- Are consumers aware
of what has been added to the food product they are purchasing and consuming?
Are these food additives safe? Even though considered safe for the majority
of consumers, will the additive (or even a basic ingredient such as
a nut) cause an allergic reaction for some consumers?
- Are the dietary
supplements (which are not considered medicines or drugs) safe?
- Do the products
that claim to provide nutrition and health benefits fulfill those claims?
- Does the product
meet the standard for products that are identified by that name? For
example, cheddar cheese is not the same as process cheese.
- When can a product
be labeled "organic?" Do consumers understand that a particular label
does not guarantee that the food is safe, but instead is intended to
inform the consumer so the consumer can then make a decision about what
to purchase and consume?
- As biotechnology
advances and is used to modify ag commodities, the inputs used to produce
commodities, or food products, are we aware of the opportunities and
implications of adopting this technology?
- What steps do we
take to address our concerns about malicious attacks on our food system
and food supply; e.g., bioterrorism?
- Do consumers have
the information they need to make good decisions about their food? Do
consumers understand what is necessary to make good decisions about
food reaches the consumer 1) needing some final preparation (such as the
groceries purchased in the local store or farmers market) or 2) ready for consumption from
a dine-in or carry-out restaurant, vending machine, school cafeteria,
hospital, nursing home, or other institution that provides prepared meals/food.
The number of producers, agriculture commodities and food products, processors,
vendors, and other firms involved with food, as well as the globalization
of the industry, further complicate the "machine" that feeds
the world's human population. It is within this complex of intertwined
relationships that the need to assure a safe food supply has to be addressed.
- Examples of food
safety concerns that may arise in production agriculture:
- do the inputs
used in producing grains, livestock, milk, vegetables, fruits, eggs,
fish and other agricultural commodities leave residues on or in the raw commodities?
- What is the quality of the commodity being sold by the producer? Does
that standard assure that it is a safe product?
- How do we address safety
and quality concerns for domestically produced and consumed commodities?
How do we address these concerns for imported commodities? How
do we assure commodities we export are safe for use as food?
- Is there
a difference between the regulations that apply to a commodity that
will be used for human consumption and a commodity that will be used
as livestock feed?
- What steps are being taken to assure traceability of food back to the producer?
- Examples of food
safety concerns that may arise in food processing:
- what steps must a
processor take to assure the product is safe at the completion of processing
- What steps must be taken to preserve information
about the source of commodities that are blended during processing (to assure traceability)?
- What steps are taken to assure the safety of imported food products?
What steps must the processor take to assure the consumer has the information
necessary to make good decisions? What steps must a processor take to
assure the product is safe to be exported?
- What steps must be taken
to assure the food product does not become unsafe during transportation
- What steps must
be taken to assure the product does not become unsafe as the product
is marketed to consumers? What steps must be taken to assure the
product does not become unsafe as the product is prepared for immediate
consumption? What educational programs can be developed to assist consumers
make good decisions about their food?
addressing laws directing production, processing and preparation of food,
it is helpful to overview the government response. This overview also
involves a review of the structure of our government and legal system, including how our laws are created and organized.
January 21, 2010