Sunday, 29 July 2007

Eight point plan to improve co-ordination between government agencies

The Consumers Union (CU) has urged more coordination among government agencies as well as better tools and more resources to keep up with the growing number of imports and to accomplish this, CU has recommended an eight point action plan:

  • Provide increased resources to government safety agencies to prevent unsafe products from crossing our borders.
  • Prompt the need for pre-shipment inspection and testing by holding importers, distributors, and retailers accountable for bringing unsafe products to the market.
  • Develop U.S. government-administered third-party safety certification programs.
  • Develop a product traceability program for country-of-origin labeling for food, drugs, and cosmetics, as well as other consumer products.
  • Require that importers post a safety bond to ensure they have the resources to recall products if required.
  • Give all agencies the power to levy meaningful civil penalties for companies who fail to comply with regulations; and criminal penalties for those who knowingly or repeatedly jeopardize public safety.
  • Authorize mandatory recall authority for all government agencies.
  • Require all government agencies to publicly disclose information pertaining to safety investigation and reports of adverse events.

    Check out the post at:
    http://blogs.consumerreports.org/safety/2007/07/our-eight-point.html

Friday, 20 July 2007

How do we ensure food security?

Food security is a complex issue and there are arguments in favour of both market and regulatory mechanisms to ensure access, availability and affordability for all. Policy in developed countries has historically centred on issues such as self-sufficiency and support of home production. Whilst this has resulted in food availability, it has not focused on affordability especially where these policies have been financed by general taxation. Indeed individuals vary greatly in their ability to make autonomous decisions with regard to food and nutritional choices. Globalisation of food supply chains has provided benefits in terms of increased calories per capita, but it has not addressed nutritional security. It could be argued that malnutrition in terms of both under and over-nutrition has shown an alarming positive correlation, if not actual cause and effect, with increased food availability in terms of calories per capita. There is a recognised nutritional transition in developed and developing countries towards a more sedentary lifestyle and a change in diet towards animal source foods and this transition will impact on natural resource availability in terms of land requirements and water use.

Nutritional food security needs to address the following:
• the development of water policy and/or virtual water trade especially for countries that lack the national ability to provide for their population needs in terms of both food and nutritional security;
• the impact of global supply chains on malnutrition i.e. both under and over-nutrition;
• the factors that impact on personal and group autonomy including low income, low education, family eating habits, knowledge or access to health and nutritional information and availability of food options; and
• the reduction of food waste at household and supply chain levels.
As the human population continues to rise this will provide an increasing challenge to policy makers, governments and food supply chains as they seek to meet both nutritional and calorific needs.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Food Safety Hazards

At all stages of food production it is important to follow good hygienic practices and also prevent contamination (something falling in the food or mixing with the food) or deterioration to the point where the food is no longer fit to eat. A physical item that falls into the food is often called a "foreign body" and items that could cause harm include glass, plastic, wood, metal, string, stones, and bones e.g. fish bones. Chemicals can cause contamination and it is important to control cleaning chemicals and industry or household chemicals to ensure that they do not come into contact with the food.

The moment fruit and vegetables are harvested or animals slaughtered the food will start to deteriorate, either by losing nutrients or physically changing and becoming stale. Over time the human population has used many ways to slow this process including cooking, pickling, adding sugar or salt, dehydrating or more recently the addition of chemical preservatives or the development of particular types of packaging.

Microorganisms can also be present or come into contact with food and given the right conditions will start to grow (multiply). Microorganisms are a group of small biological entities such as bacteria, moulds, yeast, fungi or viruses that can cause either food poisoning or food or water-borne disease. It is important that we prevent contamination in the first place and we take steps such as temperature control to keep foods safe that will support these organisms.