U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt echoed the viewpoint of a growing number of government and industry officials on food safety yesterday when he said "We cannot inspect our way to safety." Leavitt, who also serves as the chairman of the president's panel on imported-food safety, was addressing an Interagency Working Group at the Department of Agriculture.
The Washington Post reports that many government and industry officials are suggesting that instead of increasing inspection numbers, authorities must make the inspections more targeted. In addition, authorities should expand the use of technology to help them detect risky imports.
The safety of food imports became a hot topic after a series of food recalls and warnings earlier this year, mostly on products imported from China. The Post reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects less than one percent of the food under its oversight.
According to Scott Faber, the vice president of government affairs for the Grocery Manufactuers Association:
"There is an emerging consensus that we should continue to improve our ability to detect threats but not rely on detection as the front line.... Our inspectors should be the remedy of last resort."
The FDA is also developing a food-safety strategy that is scheduled to be unveiled this fall that would rely on risk-based inspection.
Some in Congress propose more inspections. As reported in the article, several congressional proposals are aiming to increase the number of food inspections. However, the president's panel is expected to focus instead on the expanded use of technology to identify risky imports.