Every day as American’s go about their lives, most do so with out the cumbersome worry of their food safety. It is because of the Food and Drug Administration that we are able to enjoy such a freedom that many around the world are lacking. Unfortunately, the FDA is ill equipped to meet the needs of a market that is continually expanding. The 400 inspectors that the FDA currently employs are unable to keep up in a market that has doubled in the last decade. Despite new discoveries in food preservation, the FDA simply cannot keep stride with the daunting task of assuring public food safety. Armed with this knowledge, companies are finding that they can simply disregard governmental regulations, as the odds are favorable that they will not be caught. In fact, according to our reading, the average company will only be visited by the FDA every eight years on average. Thus, many companies turn their backs on regulations, as the savings prove large in comparison to the relatively small gamble. According to the FDA budget, the Presidential budget for the year 2001 has called for approximately 176 million in additional funding for the FDA; we simply must examine the way in which it is spent. I propose that we use the 30 million dollars in additional funding allocated specifically for food inspection be spent on the addition of more inspectors and educational programs to raise consumers’ awareness on the dangers associated with some foods. In addition, imposing larger fines and even specific foreign company embargos should be sufficient to make entire nations sit up and take notice.
Simply the threat of having tainted goods discovered by the FDA is enough to raise the eyebrows of any company executive. Despite this fact, the threat remains largely ignored as many businesses opt not to conform to governmental regulations as the cost of doing so may over time, add up to far more than being caught once or twice. As this is so, it seems to me that the only solution is to double the amount of inspectors. Though doubling the current number of inpectors only gives us an additional four hundred agents, the company/inspector ratio is lowered from 142.5:1 to 71.25:1. Not only would this create a genuine awareness in the food industry that the FDA is intent on making consumption safer for America, but also we would benefit form the citing of more violations.
The imposition of larger penalties will be an integral part of making our food supply safer. First, the FDA will directly benefit from larger monetary penalties as the increased revenue from fines can be used to subsidize the addition of agents on an annual basis. This way, the number of agents will continue to grow to meet rising needs of the expanding food market. Next, the stiffer fines will also make it more of a risk for the companies who choose not to conform to governmental regulations. Thus, as the penalties pose larger financial risk for companies, would be violators will begin to find compliance more beneficial.
As the addition of supplementary agents will naturally lead to the discovery of added violations, more food suppliers will begin to tighten quality control standards on their own. The effect is similar to a traffic cop handing out speeding tickets in a neighborhood. Not only does the police presence tend to slow violators, but also as more citations are issued, citizens sense the threat of being caught to be ever more impending and comply accordingly.
Another important facet of prevention is education. If funds are available after the FDA size increase, attention should be given to the education of the American consumer. In addition to the standard regulation of food purveyors, those who are being held suspect of possible violations should be warned and those concerns publicly disclosed so that the consumer may respond accordingly.
Despite regulations, not all violations are blatant. As stated in our reading, the chance of bacterial and viral infection has risen since the Americans have begun eating more fresh produce as well as precooked meats and seafood. In response to this, proper handling and cooking methods should be advocated and advertised.
Our nation is a growing one, and as it continues to do so, its markets will continue to expand, as will the dangers of these markets. If the FDA is judicious in the expenditure of the newly allotted 30 million dollars from the Presidential Budget for 2001, proper control over food safety can be exercised. Though 30 million is not a huge sum of money, the FDA can make the most of it by obtaining the free benefits of making examples of offending companies. Also, as the revenue generated through the collection of more violations, the FDA will be able to continually expand its food safety task force.