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Food safety standards refer to regulations and laws created by a number of agencies to try to ensure that consumers have access to safe food that is free of dangerous or diseased substances. Throughout the world, there are numerous agencies given this task, and others that have the job of making sure such standards are enforced. In Europe, for instance, one of the most influential bodies in creating food safety standards is the World Health Organization. In the US, regulations may be created and/or enforced by a number of separate groups include the US Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and smaller regional or state groups.
The various food safety standards that may exist can cover a many different areas. They could apply to how food is transported or refrigerated. They might cover food handling, labeling, or mixing of foods. Usually addressed are things like how and when to inspect for contaminants of chemical or bacterial nature, and under what circumstances food is not safe and must be discarded.
As previously stated, the goal of all of these laws, and there are many of them, is to ensure that people buy safe food. Yet it’s very clear that the purposeful violation of food and safety standards and regulations don’t always address certain things. In late 2009, the New York Times published an extensive piece regarding how easy it was, given present laws, to miss the bacteria e. coli in ground beef. Such exposés and repeated cases of food poisoning in the US and Europe call to attention the loopholes that exist in food safety standards.
These loopholes may also exist when inspection is shared by more than one agency, or alternately when additional laws regarding protected naming food must be honored. At the state level, for example, food inspectors must make sure that food is safe and consumable, posing no hazard to the consumer and that it meets all requirements to be labeled in a certain way. Knowing the definition of things like “organic,” “natural” and other words may mean rigidly following specific legislation.
It is undoubtedly true that for food producers, meeting food safety standards can be an onerous task. On the other hand, selling unsafe food creates risk to the consumer and makes the company liable. The company that sickens, permanently injures or kills people due to ignorance or disregard of the law or failure of inspection is likely to suffer economically, often for a long time. Still, compliance with all standards is very complicated, and companies must ensure that all employees are trained in existing rules and regulations.
Sometimes food safety standards can apply to the way consumers use food or they may be implemented so that consumers remain knowledgeable. In the late 2000s, the US started a new alert system so people would have easier access to finding out when contamination outbreaks occur and if food they purchased might be contaminated. Also, many inspection agencies give safe food handling and cooking instructions so people will not accidentally sicken themselves at home via improper food preparations techniques.