Thursday, April 7, 2011

Food Policy - Make Some Noise

Have something to say about food production or safety say it to the people who make up the rules. Yes the US is a large place, yes you are but one person among millions but chances are you aren’t the only person who feels a certain way about what you eat, and how its produced. There are a number of books on food policy and safety that can explain things a heck of a lot better than I can. Many of them I have read and the one thing that has really stuck out in my mind is, when it comes to consumer safety the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. You make enough noise they have to hear you and will have to do something about it. There have been a number of times in the past the lobbyist and special interest groups have tried to destroy the Organics Regulations, but thanks to a whole lot of loud individuals they are still being rigorously maintained. If this is something you really care about do the research, find some supporting evidence, get a group of people together and make some noise where it really counts. Below is some information to get you started.

The USDA or  the United States Department of Agriculture was established in May 15, 1862. It is a federal executive department which develops and executes federal policy on farming, agriculture and food. Its main focus is to support and meet the needs of farmers and ranchers. They also try to promote agriculture trade as well as production. The name in charge, a Mr. Tom Vilsack the Secretary of Agriculture, his Deputy Secretary of Agriculture is Ms. Kathleen Merrigan. The USDA can be contacted at 1301 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC., the USDA web site can be found here.

The FDA or Food and Drug Administration is the agency who agenda seems a tad more in line with consumers. They are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (see below for more information). The FDA is responsible for “protecting and promoting public health through regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over the counter pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation, veterinary products and cosmetics”. This all sounds great, but sadly the FDA is stretched so thin for resources that the work they do can barley touch all the point of regulation that they really should be doing. When testing is done on products, they are done quickly, with a very small sample size and often very little follow through. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the organization. As they are a branched department of the federal government, federal spending cuts deeply hurt their ability to do the job that is needed and lobbyists have a lot of say over the amount of funding given to the organization. And since the lobbyists are large corporate commodity farms, and food processors it is a constant battle to do the job they are meant to do. The FDA is headquarter at 10903 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Springs, MD 20903. And the Current Commissioner since 2009 is Dr. Margret A. Hamburg. web site can be found here. 

The FDA works in conjunction with a number of committees to do its best to protect public interests, the most important to consumers however is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). An independent government agency which was created by the 1972 Consumer Product Safety Act. This organization also has a large scope of consumer interest, anything we consume they help regulate or at least try to. Mostly though they are the ones responsible for banning and holding those accountable for harmful consumer products. I seem to be having an especially difficult time finding their mailing address but they are located in Bethesda Maryland, and the current head of the agency is Inez Moore Tenenbaum, the CPSC web site can be found here.

The United States Department of Health and Human Resources is a cabinet department. Who claim their goal is to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services. This department has close ties with The United States Public Health Service (PHS). And the United States Public Health Services Commissioned Corps which is headed up by the Surgeon General. The cabinet department is located in the Hubert H. Humphrey Building in Washington DC. and is headed up by Kathleen Sebelius and Bill Corr., the HHS web site can be found here.

Both the USDA wrote and maintains the rules of Organic Farming and the FDA is responsible for testing and certifying that organics are indeed what they say they are. The Federal Organic Certification Standards can be found here.

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