Where Did Food Safety Policy Begin?
Ask the average American where food safety policy started, and most will remember their required high school reading of the book “The Jungle” written by Upton Sinclair in 1906. Interestingly, the card-carrying communist Sinclair wrote the book to promote socialism, not food safety. Sinclair famously said of the public reaction, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident, I hit it in the stomach.”
Boy did Sinclair hit the public’s stomach. Animal welfare and food safety policy was born from the reaction of “The Jungle” and after spending 20 years in the food safety compliance industry, I can 100% tell you it is still a jungle.
First, we need to truly understand that few things in life are more intimate than what we eat and drink. Family, friends, holidays, and religion are regularly celebrated around the table with amazing dishes. Many of our greatest memories in life revolve around what we eat and drink. So, of course, after politicians read about the nasty state of the meatpacking industry, they quickly created a new government program, the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (FMIA). The USDA, still to this day, inspects every meat and poultry plant in the country.
Food Safety Compliance Laws
Many food safety compliance laws have been created from public activism, and many more will continue into the future. For instance, 25 years ago, the government mandated HACCP (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points) in facilities, and the USDA has been quite busy this year creating nine new guidelines for the meat and poultry industry:
- June 2021: HACCP Model for the New Swine Inspection System (pork slaughter)
- June 2021: HACCP Model for Bacon (Heat-Treated, Not Fully Cooked)
- June 2021: HACCP Model for Raw Ground Beef (Raw Non-Intact)
- June 2021: HACCP Model for Ready-to-Eat, Heat-Treated, Shelf-Stable (Beef Jerky)
- July 2021: FSIS Guideline for Controlling Salmonella in Raw Poultry
- July 2021: FSIS Guideline for Controlling Campylobacter in Raw Poultry
- July 2021: FSIS Industry Guideline for Minimizing the Risk of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in Beef (including Veal) Processing Operations
- July 2021: FSIS Industry Guideline for Minimizing the Risk of Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in Beef (including Veal) Slaughter Operations
- July 2021: HACCP Model for Beef Slaughter
Animal Welfare in Meat and Poultry Industries
When discussing food safety compliance, we can’t just look at Food Safety — Animal Welfare is a HUGE aspect of food compliance in the meat and poultry segment and continues to grow every year. Temple Grandin helped the meat industry find profitability in animal welfare, and the practices she preaches have been expanding into more and more facilities.
However, there is one US state in particular that is not interested in the meat industry self-regulating into animal welfare over the next decade and has mandated its own policy. California may not have pork products come January 2022 due to passing Proposition 12 in 2018. While the state consumes about 15% of the nation’s pork products or 224 million pounds monthly, it only produces 45 million pounds on a monthly basis. Also, it is predicted that only 4% of the pork industry will produce to the new California industry expectations. This means that come January 2022, California may have a hard time bringing home the bacon—literally!
So, the food safety compliance jungle still remains. Industry, national, and state regulations will continue to push for higher standards over the next many decades. It has been over 100 years since the government started inspecting meat facilities. What’s changed? A lot! But one thing remains — Americans care about what they eat!