In her book Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety, Marion Nestle refers to the current food regulatory system in the United States as “breathtaking in its irrationality: 35 separate laws administered by 12 agencies housed in 6 cabinet-level departments.”
Nestle calls the fact that more of us aren’t dropping over with food-borne illnesses “nothing less than miraculous, a tribute more to our immune systems, the benefits of cooking and food preservation, and plain good luck than to federal oversight.”
Our food system is a mess. Don’t even get me started on imported food. We inspect barely 2% of the food that enters our country. Organic anything from China is laughable. So, something needs to change.
President Obama’s new 2016 $4 trillion federal budget seeks to address this:
The Budget proposes to consolidate the FSIS [the Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA] and the food safety related components of the FDA to create a single new agency within HHS…A single Federal food safety agency would provide focused, centralized leadership, a primary voice on food safety standards and compliance with those standards, and clear lines of responsibility and accountability that will enhance both prevention of and responses to outbreaks of food borne illnesses. It would rationalize the food safety regulatory regime and allow the Federal government to better allocate resources and responsibilities.
In a recent blog post, Nestle doubts any of this will actually happen even though food safety watchdogs have been calling for something like this since the 90s.
The 4 best ways to trust your food:
1. Grow it yourself!
2. Know the name of the farmer who produces it.
3. Buy from local farmers that allow visitors on their farms. No, you probably aren’t going to visit, but the fact they allow visitors says something.
4. Shop at a trusted filter grocery. An example of this would be Muncie’s Downtown Farm Stand. Owners Dave and Sara Ring do visit farms, if possible, and only sell items that meet their high standards.
The further we get from our food geographically, emotionally, and relationally, the more unknowable it becomes. All of the food my family eats doesn’t come from these four sources, but we eat a lot from these four sources than we did before I researched and wrote a book on food.
It’s about baby steps.
Know this: The U.S. government will more than likely not change the safety of what we eat in the near future, but you can change what you eat today.