If food recalls continue to predispose people to experience recall overload, the government's recall data should at least be reliable and effective. A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report criticizes the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) lack of public information on how the agency will implement its new recall authority as well as the uncertainty of FDA's recall data.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in January 2011 finally gave FDA the ability to order companies to recall food products it deems unsafe, an important power given the previous danger of companies choosing not to remove adulterated products from the market. It remains unclear, however, how successful FDA will be in carrying out this new authority.
From the report:But without publicly available procedures, regulations, or industry guidance on how the agency will implement its authority—including how the agency will weigh evidence on whether a recall is necessary—the agency cannot ensure that it applies practices uniformly or consistently or that it provides clear information for the food industry to follow or consumers and the public to understand. Such ambiguity could be particularly troublesome with regard to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, which can occur any time—indeed, have already occurred since FDA assumed its new authority—and demand clear and timely agency reactions.
Next, an 8-minute documentary about a Fair Trade / CSA-inspired fishing program from the East coast.
And, lord knows, we need more of this kind of thinking in the food chain.
Especially now that Canada is seeing severe drought conditions in the East. The Globe and Mail reported (30 July):
Weeks of drought have turned much of Ontario’s prime agricultural land into a dust bowl. And it is corn farmers, especially in the southwest and eastern parts of the province, who have been the hardest hit.
“It is a bad year in eastern Canada and it is getting worse,” said Evan Fraser, a geography professor who studies global food security at the University of Guelph, west of Toronto. The far southwest part of Ontario is “looking grim,” Dr. Fraser said, and in other parts of the province “it’s a bit of a wait-and-see game.”
This Magazine brings up one of the little-discussed aspects of turning small-scale organic agriculture into large-scale industrial organic food production: migrant labour.
Organic regulations give value to everything from animal welfare, soil systems, and biodiversity to watersheds and air quality—concepts of sustainability focused almost exclusively on the physical environment. Farms go to extreme lengths to close the gap between farmer and eater: consumers are invited to open farm days for tours, food is meticulously labeled and sourced, and farm owners are no longer faceless, appearing on websites, packaging and TV commercials. In all this effort to exist outside conventional food practices and eat guilt-free, however, there is one link in the food chain consumers know shockingly little about: the migrant worker producing all this wonderful food.
The myth of the family run, locally staffed farm has somehow remained despite fundamental changes to both the scale and style of organic agricultural production in Canada. While many farms are still family owned and operated, the labour usage line is blurring between large-scale organics and conventional agriculture.