There are those who would debate whether industry should be the leaders or the follower in food safety. Industry has taken a lead over government, going passed the basic food codes. For example, the USFDA Food Code applied at retail does not require food safety systems to be developed, nor does it require certification that employees are training in food safety. The Food Code may infer these tenants of running a safe operation but it does not require it. Thus, industry itself has developed its own food safety protocols for training, food safety systems development and auditing. While this is a very good thing from a consumer standpoint, letting industry self regulate without oversight is a danger. Industry is motivated by profit as much as it is food safety. While ultimately one could argue that they are both related, food safety requires a serious investment of time, money and workers as well as investments in equipment and the physical plant. Whereas operators do not see a direct economic benefit for these investments, many feel they must protect themselves and most importantly comply with laws. Removing oversight over the efforts of industry in food safety is shortsighted. What is needed is a new approach where government guides industry through the development and application of their own food safety plans and then assesses their own monitoring activities. This is the very approach used by third party auditors. Government efforts would be greatly improved by adopting the industry model and then creating rules, and inducements around them, basically validating and approving the systems in use They would control those operations with clear lines of authority so no unsafe products are released. Self-reporting could be done in a number of ways utilizing technology, allowing constant oversight and rapid intervention.
It is a dangerous thing to allow a vacuum to develop where our sworn public health officials are not involved deeply with food safety protection. The answer is not a larger role for the government or industry, it is a partnership, but where government maintains its right to protect the public.
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