Whose Responsibility is it to Keep Food Safe?

My parents grew up in a generation that believed in plastic and canning to ensure food safety. Now, with BPA in everything from beer cans to water bottles, I’m not so sure canned food is the way to go anymore. Plastic wrapping can even contaminate food with dangerous chemicals. Remember “pink slime“? The stuff found in almost all ground beef? Makes you scratch your head and wonder, who is saying this stuff is safe?

The FDA is the agency charged with evaluating the safety of food and drug products. But have they truly kept us safe? In 2009, the CDC released a study that found BPA in 93% of 2,517 urine samples collected from people as young as 6-years-old. Food and drink are the main sources of exposure to BPA, which was even commonly used in baby bottles until recently. Chilling, since BPA is linked to hormone disruption, diabetes, cancer, and childhood obesity.

According to a 2007 USA Today article, the FDA is only testing 1.3% of all imported food, and yet regularly finds that imported produce, fish, wheat, and other products are not fit for human consumption. In it’s defense, the FDA released a special report in 2011 called “Pathway to Global Product Safety and Quality” explaining that between 10-15% of all food consumed by U.S. households is imported, nearly two-thirds of all fruits and vegetables are imported, and nearly 80% of seafood is imported.

That begs the question, are we consumers partially to blame for this problem?

I think we are. After all, who really needs to eat mangoes in December? We just want to. And it’s convenient to just go down to the supermarket and get one. I think consumers drive every market. In that case, isn’t it time we stop relying on an administration to take care of food safety for us and take on that responsibility ourselves?

You can reduce dependence on imported food by eating locally produced goods! Shop your local farmers’ market, and small, independent grocers. There is a huge and abundant variety of fruits and veggies and bread and everything else at the Chico Certified Farmer’s Market. I shop it once a week, and get more than enough produce to last the whole week.

Even better, grow your own fruits and veggies! Raise your own chickens! I just read a really cool article about a homesteading class being offered at Rutgers in New Jersey. I hope more classes like this start popping up in communities all over the U.S. There is something very American to me about wanting to DIY! My hope for my husband and myself is that we eventually become completely self-reliant.

I definitely think the FDA is in need of an overhaul, but I think we consumers have come to have unrealistic expectations. I don’t think it’s fair to point the finger and say it’s all the FDA’s fault, when we’re the ones who simply had to have apples in June. Eat what is local and in season, and take responsibility for your own food safety by growing the food yourself, or buying from local, reputable  farmers.


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