There are loopholes big enough to drive trucks through. And Congress needs to take a look at those laws and make sure that they're much more rigorous.
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To speak only of food inspections: the United States currently imports 80% of its seafood, 32% of its fruits and nuts, 13% of its vegetables, and 10% of its meats. In 2007, these foods arrived in 25,000 shipments a day from about 100 countries. The FDA was able to inspect about 1% of these shipments, down from 8% in 1992. In contrast, the USDA is able to inspect 16% of the foods under its purview. By one assessment, the FDA has become so short-staffed that it would take the agency 1,900 years to inspect every foreign plant that exports food to the United States.
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To speak only of food inspections: the United States currently imports 80% of its seafood, 32% of its fruits and nuts, 13% of its vegetables, and 10% of its meats. In 2007, these foods arrived in 25, 000 shipments a day from about 100 countries. The FDA was able to inspect about 1% of these shipments, down from 8% in 1992. In contrast, the USDA is able to inspect 16% of the foods under its purview. By one assessment, the FDA has become so short-staffed that it would take the agency 1, 900 years to inspect every foreign plant that exports food to the United States.
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Food safety oversight is largely, but not exclusively, divided between two agencies, the FDA and the USDA. The USDA mostly oversees meat and poultry; the FDA mostly handles everything else, including pet food and animal feed. Although this division of responsibility means that the FDA is responsible for 80% of the food supply, it only gets 20% of the federal budget for this purpose. In contrast, the USDA gets 80% of the budget for 20% of the foods. This uneven distribution is the result of a little history and a lot of politics.
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When you have a food safety system that's voluntary and not mandatory, you're in a situation in which everybody wants everybody else to go first. So as a normal course of doing business, food companies cut corners and don't want to take the kind of trouble and the kind of testing and the kind of careful procedures that are required to produce the safe food because they don't have to.
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If you like eating meat but want to eat ethically, this is the book for you. From the hard-headed, clear-eyed, and sympathetic perspective of butchers who care deeply about the animals whose parts they sell, the customers who buy their meats, and the pleasures of eating, this book has much to teach. It's an instant classic, making it clear why meat is part of the food revolution. I see it as the new Bible of meat aficionados and worth reading by all food lovers, meat-eating and not.
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FDA, which regulates the safety of vegetables, doesn't have those kinds of rules because Congress doesn't want it to. It's not that the vegetables themselves have anything wrong with them; it's that they're contaminated with animal manure. One of the rationales for a single food safety agency is that you can't separate animals from vegetables.
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The pet food recall, which was after all just about pets, and treated as if it were an inconsequential matter, was an absolute forerunner of what's going on in China, where 50,000 infants have been sickened because of a contaminated infant formula. So these things are all closely related. You cannot separate the food supply for pets, farm animals, and people, and you cannot separate problems in one area of a country from problems in another area.
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