Whenever importing or exporting issues hit my radar screen, I defer to Dave Jackson, my international trade geek. I asked him for his thoughts on the recent NPR article on the food safety aspects of imported foods, which notes that fish and spices top the list of imported foods carrying food borne illness :
Interestingly, the article notes that we are importing more food, and that a mirrored rise in imported foods with diseases makes sense. What is the government doing about it? FDA has required foreign food facilities to register with them and to nominate a U.S. agent to register the facility since the passage of the Bioterrorism Act in 2003. 21 U.S.C. § 350d. Now, FDA has an expanded mandate in the Food Safety Modernization Act to re-register all facilities every two years (21 U.S.C. § 350d(3)), and inspect more foreign food facilities. 21 U.S.C. § 350j(2)(D). The Act, however, was passed a year ago January, and it takes time to initiate new programs, even if they are legislated. It also takes longer to inspect imported foods and restrict those foods from problem facilities, either in the U.S. or abroad. So despite the legislation and regulation, imports will never be 100% safe. The article’s advice to consumers? Do what you’ve always done- “cook, separate, and chill.” My advice? In addition, consider buying local. It lowers the energy footprint, supports your neighbors, and provides more money into your communities. We will continue to import foods, and as a practical matter we need to import foods. To the article’s credit, you shouldn’t fear the foreign foods over the domestic ones. Just be mindful of risks present in all foods and prepare foods mindfully.
Sound guidance, Dave. The fewer foods you inspect on your own, the fewer foods the government will inspect on your behalf. That is not paranoia, its just logic.