By Sam Lewis, associate editor
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International supply chains are becoming increasingly complex. As the supply chain landscape continues to expand, it also faces greater risks and more regulations to manage them. Here, Bill Marler, U.S.-based food safety attorney, answers Global Food Safety Forum (GFSF) Chairman Rick Gilmore’s questions on behalf of Food Online regarding U.S. food safety in terms of the food imports sector.
Food Online: We tend to regard the U.S. as the paragon of virtue when it comes to food safety. But, you have been a clarion of conscience; reminding us that acceptance and enforcement of standards at all phases of the supply chain have much work that still needs to be done. Where do the biggest transgressions lie in the food import sector, which is so important to the food industry in the U.S.?
Marler: The reality is that when I started in this business during the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993, imported food was still a small part of our food safety concerns. As our desire for a 24/7/365 food supply has increased — Does anyone recall when a food was “out of season”? — our imports have increased and so have the risks and the outbreaks linked to imports. We have seen several outbreaks linked to imported fruits and vegetables, fish, and spices. Of great concern has been food scares coming out of China.
Food Online: Where are the biggest regulatory gaps, which, in effect tend to allow these transgressions to occur unnoticed?
Marler: For imports, it is the utter lack of real inspection by FDA or FSIS officials.