Government Shutdown Stresses Food Inspections

Margaret Hamburg is shown. | AP Photo

Two, that it was complex — there were a lot of variables involved in any decision my father took for our farm – weather, government policies, labor availability, food prices, land prices, interest rates, equipment costs, (just to name a few) — all were considered all the time at both ends of the entire food ecosystem. And three that my family wanted me to get out of farming and become a professional (doctor or engineer) – the hardship and complexity was just not worth it; other professions were more efficient at making money. Quite a message to digest for a 10-year-old. But even more importantly, quite a paradox — if the world indeed needed is challenged by population growth, don’t we need more, smarter professionals as growers, not fewer? And, shouldn’t we have more emphasis on making the food ecosystem profitable and efficient, so young people don’t leave this important vocation as a career choice? And shouldn’t the best technologies be constantly focused on making food tastier, more nutritious, more affordable, more efficient and safer while also allowing farmers to earn higher profits? How can we achieve this? Clearly my parents couldn’t imagine that future. They saw the food ecosystem as a zero-sum game. But then again, neither could they imagine Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix or Verizon. And the common denominator to all these recent breakthroughs has been – Information and the ability/technology to disrupt the status-quo in real-time. Instant gratification. Today, we face the perfect storm for our food supply — climate change, regulations, population growth and a global supply-chain have aligned to necessitate the use of information. E.g., we will improve water use inefficiencies in the system if we are informed on how to produce the same yield with less water. We will no longer over- or under-fertilize if we are informed on the optimum use of nutrients that help us sustainably grow tastier and more nutritious food.

global water use

Abiding by their well-known motto, Think Global but Buy Local, Tufts dining services creates an atmosphere where students are amped to embody the slogan. For example, their fall farmers’ markets give students the opportunity to purchase fresh produce right on campus. Tufts serves 100 percent cage-free eggs and sustainable fish, like salmon and tilapia. Patti Klos, the dining services director for more than 20 years, told us their secret: taking immediate action on students needs and desires through menu changes, dining events, and sustainable dining. Talk about top-notch service! 10Yale University, New Haven, Conn. Yale Yales dining program couldnt be more impressive if it tried. With menu items ranging from roasted pork chops to potato pancakes, beer-battered fish and chips, and vegan ravioli, youd be hard-pressed to find a student leaving the dining hall unsatisfied. And why shouldnt they be? They offer so many dining events, like a student culinary competition and a Spring Fling catered meal, not to mention an entire dining series called “Reality Bites” that offers the students programs on mixology, the best wine and meal pairings, and formal dining etiquette. And the best part is that new information is being constantly updated through their mobile app, website, and their dining newsletter, the D.I.S.H. While thats all fun, Yale has very serious values when it comes to sustainability.

Best college for food in America for 2013

The agency is maintaining 55 percent of its 14,779 employees while in shutdown mode, but this includes workers who focus on drugs, tobacco and other nonfood areas, many of which have budgets propped up by industry user fees. Remarkably, the shutdown plan is more generous than the outline floated in 2011, the last time the federal government was facing the brink. Under that plan, the administration deemed only 14 percent of FDAs workforce essential. Still, food safety advocates are very concerned about the direct hit to food safety. ( Also on POLITICO: Senate CR to strip Monsanto rider ) Ceasing routine food inspections is not ideal, experts say, especially because FDA is already so short-staffed compared with the size of its jurisdiction. During the 2012 fiscal year, the agency inspected about 10,000 of the 167,000 domestic food manufacturers. Overseas, it was able to get into 1,300 of the 254,000 food facilities registered with the agency. According to the plan released by the administration, FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities. That includes routine food manufacturer inspections, compliance and enforcement of food safety regulations and food import monitoring. When it comes to the CDC, which is operating with 32 percent of its 12,825 employees during the shutdown, health experts worry the disease surveillance system for detecting foodborne illness could be hampered by the loss of personnel. ( Also on POLITICO: Harvard, NRDC: Expire dates key to stopping food waste ) While the public learns of maybe only a dozen high-profile national foodborne illness outbreaks each year, at any given point there are dozens of clusters of illnesses tied to food and investigators try to pinpoint the cause. CDCs PulseNet a crucial part of the agency that tracks and monitors foodborne illnesses across the country has been hit hard by the shutdown. Each year, PulseNet monitors 250 clusters of foodborne disease and only 10 to 15 get high-profile media attention.