Reducing Food and CPG Import Issues: Is Government Oversight the Right Answer?

Given the recent food safety scandals involving everything from tainted toothpaste to harrowing hummus to perilous pet food, it's no surprise that the global sourcing of food and CPG ingredients is being called into question by those who seek additional regulatory controls and oversight. In some cases, as I recently pointed out, the scaremongers -- who I'm guessing are working as part of a smear campaign against global sourcing -- have surfaced more sizzle than steak. But in others, it's clear that our controls and inspections are failing to stop questionable items from entering the consumer market. I recently came across an article in the San Jose Mercury News that highlights some of the above mentioned scandals and suggests some ways of improving food and CPG safety.

One suggestion in the piece is to expand the programs that the Department of Agriculture has in place to visit "other countries to certify that meat-packing plants and local inspectors are operating under acceptable standards, before allowing those products into this country." The challenge with this, though, is that "the FDA doesn't have the budget or legal authority to do the same for most other types of food".

Personally, rather than get the Feds involved, I'd suggest that leading importers band together to create a self-managed certification for on-the-ground inspections and oversight. I reckon that these importers would have no problem getting a small premium for their products from a population that appears increasingly obsessed with other labels such as "organic" and "fair-trade". And who is better to lead this process than procurement and supplier development organizations? This idea, I would argue, could be far larger and more lucrative than the whole "green" obsession that also appears to be taking off of late (which I do view as valuable mind you, just not as potentially a big deal).

Jason Busch

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