During this government shutdown, it’s tempting to conclude that food is less safe because government inspections aren’t taking place.
Dozens of consumer news companies concluded just that. Wrongly.
My story last week quotes industry leaders fighting back against the charge that fresh produce isn’t as safe during the shutdown.
It is as safe and healthy as ever. Is that because government inspections aren’t important?
No, they are, but these are not the most important guards of the safety and integrity of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The best thing I heard when I talked to Jennifer McEntire, vice president of food safety and technology at United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, DC, for the story, was who really keeps food safe.
“There are tremendous requirements imposed on the production side by retailers and restaurants,” she said. “Industry standards are required and met every day.”
I couldn’t agree more.
You answer to your customers, and your integrity is your own, whether lettuce grower-shipper, wholesaler, restaurant or retailer.
This is the reason industry leaders should, and are, taking the romaine outbreaks of 2018 so seriously. For example, the Center for Produce Safety just announced a $500,000 innovation challenge, and it has much more planned this year.
The growers and their retail and foodservice customers have more at stake than anyone to ensure consumers get a safe and healthy product.
FDA has a responsibility to oversee food safety, but it’s not the loser when consumer confidence is shaken.
Along those same lines, another story I worked on this week, concerned the organic food industry’s response to those questioning organic integrity during the government shutdown.
Laura Batcha said the third-party and state organic inspection system isn’t affected by the federal government shutdown, so there are no integrity issues.
If anyone is going to undermine the organic industry’s integrity, it will be companies selling subpar or fake organic product.
Consumer trust is tough to recover once you’ve lost it.