Monday, January 3, 2011


Any responsible democratic government cannot shy away from its solemn duty to protect its citizens from dangers emanating from different sources including that posed by sub-standard and unsafe foods. All nations have their own food safety management systems tailored to the situation prevailing there. As the world is tending to become a global village with porous boundaries, it is in the interest of every one to have harmonized food laws that can be followed without unnecessary disputes and uncertainties. WHO-FAO sponsored Codex Alimentarius Commission and International Standards Organization happen to be two of the most visible agencies that help the countries to evolve quality and safety standards for universal adoption or acceptance with some minimum modifications.

Food and Drug Administration of the United State of America (FDA) and the European Food Safety Council are two of the most active agencies engaged in evolving safety protocols suitable for their countries and being industrially advanced and economically well to do nations they have the wherewithal to invest on safety related development work for implementation to benefit their citizens. As for other countries, especially those coming under the category of developing or undeveloped nations, the models offered by developed world are supposed to be gold standards though they still have to modify some of them to suit their individual needs. Under such a situation what could be the implications if there are grave concerns regarding the credibility of these safety enforcement agencies in those countries?

USA, which, by far the only unchallenged super power, has a powerful body created by the government tasked with the responsibility of making the food chain secure and protect its citizens from fraud, unsafe foods and unhealthy products in the market. Unfortunately the sordid record of the FDA does not inspire any confidence amongst other nations aspiring to evolve workable but effective safety regimes for protecting their citizens. Of course the task on hand is tough considering that it has to balance the interests of both the industry as well as the consumers. It is in an unenviable position to day being attacked for botching its duties by both the stakeholders. For a dispassionate observer, the very fact that food in that country is the biggest killer compared to communicable diseases is a telling commentary on the track record of this agency.

The FDA, is being blamed for many ills that confront the country by illegally allowing antibiotics, hormones and slaughterhouse waste (all banned for years in Europe) to enter the food supply, along with pesticides and GMOs, with none ever having been tested for safety in humans. It is a fact that the situation continues even to day despite decades of studies by independent scientists proving the danger of these alleged toxic substances in foods. It is inevitable that FDA will have to face the allegation regarding its obfuscation before strong industry lobbies that has caused the death of countless number of people from chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease etc caused by unhealthy foods churned out by the food industry. The allegation that the food industry is working in tandem with pharmaceutical industry so that both are benefited, one by selling foods of uncertain safety and the other selling medicines to cure the diseases caused by consuming unhealthy foods! Unfortunately both these industries are controlled by one agency, the FDA.

Probably some of the allegations may be far fetched and unsustainable while some others may have some substance. Many of the product recall episodes of recent years are both a tribute as well as an indictment on the FDA, one for removal of tainted products from the market and the other for lack of monitoring the sanitation facilities in the manufacturing premises. Of course there are thousands of small producers, out side the charmed circle of industrial giants, which still produce good and safe foods whereas the latter seem to be more interested in making products based on GM materials, hormone and antibiotic tainted foods and others deviating from natural foods. Some critics believe that in collusion with the FDA these industrial monoliths will cause eventual collapse of many honest small scale establishments in the coming years.


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