Watch What You Eat: Guide to Food Safety
Problem #3: Inspection Imperfection
The FDA regulates 80 percent of our food supply, but the agency gets only about half the food-safety funding that the USDA, which oversees the other 20 percent, does, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. What's up with that? The law requires the USDA to inspect meat and poultry plants every day, while on average the FDA examines the 350,000 food processors and warehouses it oversees about once every 10 years. That means the grilled chicken you're eating for dinner is a lot more likely to have been given the A-OK than the vegetables you're munching on with it.
But wait, it gets worse: The FDA has about one-tenth the food investigators the USDA does, and in any given year it never gets around to checking 95 percent of food plants. Between 2003 and 2007, the number of FDA inspectors was cut 30 percent, while inspections fell by 21 percent. Meanwhile, food imports have more than doubled since 2002. "The FDA examines less than 2 percent of imported shipments a year," says Doyle.
The Safety Solution: Clearly, the FDA needs a better food-safety watchdog system. President Obama's proposed budget increase will expand inspections, and the FDA says it plans to hire 250 new investigators this year.
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