Unfortunately, the food industry finds itself under an almost constant state of attack. Not a day goes by when we do not hear at least some type of criticism about food safety, food quality or food companies in the news. Over the last decade, it seems, there has been a continuous drone of stories relating to foodborne illness outbreaks, food fraud, food product recalls, aggressive governmental enforcement actions and harsh criminal sanctions being levied against food companies that makes people sick.
What we do not hear about or see in the media are the countless stories about the food companies and their employees who are quietly leading the charge of food safety.
It is the hard-working quality assurance and food safety employees, like you, who have dedicated yourselves to making our food as safe as it can be. We have each associated ourselves with an industry that can quite literally affect the health of a nation. And with this choice, we have accepted the awesome responsibility of keeping our customers safe.
Notwithstanding the sometimes vicious attacks from the media and others, the food industry has done a great job. Each year, American families consume approximately 328.5 billion safe meals. While any illness or death linked to the consumption of food is one too many, the fact remains that, at three meals a day, you and I are 20 times more likely to die this year from pneumonia or drowning than from a food-borne illness. Although not perfect, the statistics are impressive.
These statistics, however, did not come without great effort. Nearly 100 years ago, the industry was challenged when Upton Sinclair published his controversial novel “The Jungle,” which was highly critical of the meat industry. The federal government then enacted new legislation which, for the first time, mandated federal inspection in meat plants. On June 23, 1906, as the bill was debated, Senator Bailey (of Texas) was quoted as saying, “… Whatever may be said about the origin of this controversy and wherever the blame should be placed, there can absolutely be no doubt that nothing but a drastic [new] law can now rescue the beef industry … and give the public confidence in what they eat.”
In the more than 100 years since that legislation was enacted, and even more so over the last decade, you have managed to produce the safest meat products the world has seen. You have embraced a robust food safety culture, continuously refined your HACCP plans and aggressively ensured incoming (and, in some cases outgoing) product has been appropriately tested.
So, this month I simply wanted to thank you, the real heroes, for working tirelessly to provide our friends and our families with the safest food possible.
Shawn Stevens is the founding member of Food Industry Counsel LLC, a law firm formed in 2014 to represent the food industry exclusively in regulatory and other matters involving food safety and quality. Contact Stevens at (920) 698-2561 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his Web site, www.foodindustrycounsel.com.