Prior to the industrial revolution, the United States was primarily an agricultural nation. Small family farms provided food for their owners and city dwellers willing to purchase from them. But with industrialization came mass production. And with mass production came the need for regulatory control. Or at least that is what regulators believed.
These days, food safety is the domain of federal and state regulating authorities including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Department of Agriculture is involved as well, as is the Department of Transportation. State and local regulations round out the picture.
Food Safety Regulations
The first line of defense against contaminated food are the federal and state regulations governing food safety. Those regulations have to do with everything from how food is produced to how it is packaged and shipped. Within the bevy of regulations are plenty of standards and definitions that companies in food service need to know.
For example, you have probably heard the term ‘food grade’. Something that has been certified as food grade is safe to come in contact with food. A good example is the intermediate bulk container (IBC), often referred to as an IBC tote. CedarStoneIndustry, a Texas company that manufactures IBC totes, says that a tote certified as food grade will bear appropriate markings from the DOT and UN.
Above and Beyond Food Grade
Above and beyond food grade is ‘FDA compliant’. Materials that are FDA compliant go beyond mere food storage and transport, which is what IBC totes are all about. A tote only comes in contact with food for storage and transport purposes. But FDA compliant products and materials run the gamut from storage containers to food packaging and the dyes used to color manufactured food products.
Just like IBC totes have to meet a strict set of standards in order to be certified food grade, any product intended to be FDA compliant must meet an additional set of requirements. The FDA is very particular about testing and certification. They go to great lengths to make sure manufacturers are not cutting any corners.
Regular Inspections and Testing
No regulatory regime can accomplish what it is designed to without rigorous enforcement efforts. Thus, all the federal and state authorities responsible for ensuring food safety have testing and inspections at their disposal. It is through regular testing and inspections that they guarantee everyone is following the rules.
Alcohol producers undergo stringent inspections at their production facilities. They are required to test their products and keep track of the results. The same is true for mass producers of all sorts of processed foods. There are a litany of tests and inspections that have to be done on a regular basis. And of course, there are local requirements as well.
Local Health Department Inspections
Despite a plethora of testing and inspection requirements at the federal and state levels, local health department inspections are probably the most visible to the average consumer. It is the army of local health inspectors across the country that guarantee restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, etc. are all complying with health and safety regulations.
Health inspectors routinely shut down restaurants for unsanitary conditions. They issue citations and warnings to hotels, banquet centers, and bars that are not following the rules. It’s all in an effort to make sure that business owners are not selling unsafe food and beverages to unsuspecting customers.
Like it or not, food safety regulations are here to stay. They represent the government’s efforts to ensure that we all have safe and healthy food. Most of the time, their efforts do what they are designed to do.