A new report issued this week by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) states that food safety regulators are not able to keep up with such a quickly evolving industry, therefore making the civil justice system the primary point of protection against unsafe food for consumers.
“Because regulators are underfunded and understaffed, it is the civil justice system that provides the accountability necessary to safeguard our food supply.” says Larry Tawwater, President of AAJ. As a result, regulators lack the capability and time to properly protect consumers. The report cites a number of very specific shortcomings:
- Most non-meat food manufacturing facilities and farms are not visited regularly by federal inspectors.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is issuing a series of new rules, but will still have inadequate funding to make frequent inspections.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture stations inspectors at meat processing facilities, but will not order companies to recall products.
As for food companies, they are not satisfactorily monitored by food safety regulators, nor by themselves. This means that legal action has been the most effective method--and at times the only method--to keep these companies from making poor decisions that place profits over public health and well-being.
“If your food supply begins with corporate run factory farms, it begins in a system that prioritizes corporate profits over public health,” says Jessica Culpepper, food safety & health attorney for Public Justice. “Confining huge numbers of animals in tiny spaces, refusing to properly deal with animal waste, and failing to implement common sense safety policies jeopardizes both the food we eat and the communities in which we live. Until the government stands up to these corporate giants for their abusive practices, it is critical that the public have access to the courts to stand up for themselves.”
The report asks Congress to consider multi-drug resistant Salmonella strains an official food adulterant. This would require meat producers to do more to prevent Salmonella contamination. The AAJ is also asking Congress to pass legislation that allows one single agency to command all food safety laws and regulations.