image from deathandtaxesmag.com "The fox is guarding the henhouse" is a metaphor that warns against overseers that have vested interests. The analogous situation with respect to food inspection created a grim reality this past summer. Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes caused illness for 147 consumers, and resulted in the deaths of 33 people ( Bloomberg Markets Magazine , November 2012). image from the first article linked below We in the United States might think that our food gets objective government inspection, but that is far from accurate. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had never inspected Jensen Farms, the purveyor of the Listeria-contaminated cantaloupes. Instead, Jensen had been given a top safety rating from a subcontractor hired by Primus Group, Inc., a private, for-profit inspection firm. According to the article: "In 2011, the FDA inspected 6 percent of domestic food producers and just 0.4 percent of importers. The FDA has had no rules for how often food producers must be inspected. The food industry hires for-profit inspection companies -- known as third-party auditors -- who aren’t required by law to meet any federal standards and have no government supervision. Some of these monitors choose to follow guidelines from trade groups that include ConAgra Foods Inc. (CAG), Kraft Foods Inc.and Wal-Mart.The private inspectors that companies select often check only those areas their clients ask them to review." According to industry professionals, the situation is getting worse. Several factors contribute to the deterioration of security with respect to food safety: a 2011 law, lobbied for by large agribusinesses, that allowed for more third-party auditors and foreign governments to handle food inspection increased food importation from emerging economies, where sometime no inspection occurs auditors award top ratings without doing biological testing for contaminants, created new "industry standards" that don't address the dangers at all (for example, the Jensen Farm scored 96/100, based on a checklist of procedures, right before the deadly outbreak) addresses the difficulties that small businesses are facing to borrow money. In another recent story, it was discovered that Asian seafood exported to the United States had been fed pig excrement. This practice causes concern because of the role that pigs play in the incubation and spread of viral illnesses. Transparency with respect to food inspection may cost businesses more, but it may be a factor in consumer preferences. Sources: " Food Sickens Millions as Company-Paid Checks Find it Safe ," by Stephanie Armour, John Lippert, and Michael Smith, Bloomberg Markets Magazine, October 11, 2012 "Asian Seafood Raised on Pig [excrement] Approved for US consumption" Bloomberg, October 11, 2012. [Note: Please do a web search for this title, since use of an alternate word in the link for the one in the bracket disrupts the link on this blogsite.] Follow up: Read the "Food Sickens..." article, and the included links. According to these sources, what recent law might make our food supply safer? How might businesses respond to this type of regulation? Is food regulation fair to businesses? What is government's role in regulating the food supply for consumers? Should businesses be forced to absorb the costs of inspection? What about legal damages when illness and death result? Do you support food labeling, as to where it was grown, whether it was genetically modified, use of fertilizers and feed, and other factors? How can food labeling be used (and/or misused) by food marketing campaigns?