Putting on the Safety Squeeze
Last year's well-documented string of tainted Chinese products put tremendous pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to protect the nation's imported foods. Before then, food safety received scant attention from consumers (and lawmakers, given the cash-starved FDA), excepting the latest product recall on the evening news. Ever since, food safety news has become hard to ignore - just look at this week's headlines.
First, the National Fisheries Institute and 11 other organizations announced on Monday that they are sponsoring the first-ever Import Safety Summit on July 9 in Washington, D.C. NFI is doing its part to show the seafood industry is serious about safety; the summit will take place just over a year after the FDA issued an import alert against five species of Chinese farmed seafood. Also, NFI yesterday called on Congress to approve an additional $275 million in funding for the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Secondly, a survey conducted in April by New York financial advisory firm Deloitte reveals that consumers act with their wallets when alerted to a food recall. Recalls can be the death knell for an entire industry, let alone a single company. Look at tomato growers, who stand to lose millions as the source of a salmonella outbreak this week is investigated.
More than half (57 percent) of the respondents to Deloitte's survey said they stopped eating a food product involved in a recall. Virtually the same amount (56 percent) said they think imported foods are "not at all" or only "somewhat" safe. Interesting to note: Thirty-three percent of respondents believed fresh fish was "not at all" or "somewhat" safe. Makes you wonder if they know that more than 80 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported.
Safety is serious business, as are federal rules and regulations for hygiene standards. The FDA filed for a permanent injunction against Captain's Select Seafood in Minneapolis late last week for its extensive history of violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations. Not adhering to HACCP will put you out of business.
It's another busy week for food safety. Most importantly, NFI's efforts to prioritize seafood safety - and publicize those efforts - is beneficial to the industry in both the long and short term. The more consumers see that message, the sooner they can forget about food safety again and feel confident about their food choices.