One of the greatest threats to the safety of the U.S. food supply is imported foods, according to Michael Doyle, regents professor of food microbiology and director for the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin, Georgia. Doyle has been researching improved methods for reducing harmful food-borne microorganisms and bacterial pathogens, such as E. coli, the strain that has prompted spinach and beef recalls in the U.S. "Although we have a much better surveillance system in place today and we are able to find contamination that would have gone undetected even five years ago, we need to do a much better job of inspection, which includes sampling and testing food that comes into this country," he says.
According to Doyle, the United States imports approximately 15 percent of its foods, and the percentage is increasing as buyers seek out commodities in lower-cost countries. "Lower prices do come with a certain level of risk," he says. "For instance, in China fish are often grown in ponds fertilized with uncomposted manure, which raises the risk for salmonella and pathogen contamination. Antibiotics that are not approved for use here in the United States are often used and used in excess in fish and shellfish production, and vegetables can carry a number of different pesticides."
In fairness, it must be said that the Chinese government has been taking an active approach following international scrutiny of the quality of its exports. "Change in China won't happen overnight, but the country is making strides," Doyle notes. Moreover, the problem with imported food is not restricted to China.
Source: Inside Supply Management, http://www.ism.ws
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