Michael Taylor has been integral in the Food and Drug Administration’s role in new food safety legislation since he became senior adviser to the FDA commission in mid-2009. Now he’ll have an even larger role in the FDA’s focus on food safety.

FDA appoints food safety leader

Chris Koger
Food for Thought

Taylor was named deputy commissioner for foods in mid-January, ending a lengthy period in which the press questioned the Obama administration’s dedication to rooting out bad apples in the food supply chain if there was no agency-level emphasis on food safety — not just medical products.

Plenty of blame was leveled at local, state and federal inspectors after the Peanut Corp. of America debacle of 2008, when gross violations of food safety regulations were ignored at several of the company’s plants.

Perhaps Taylor will reform the inspection system, with clear expectations and consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

Despite whatever resources the FDA throw into tackling food safety, there’s only so much a bureaucracy can do.

Reading about Taylor’s promotion, I was reminded about the current situation in my home state, Kansas. Facing massive budget shortfalls, the state enacted cuts to a number of programs this month. Five counties, including the one I live in, Douglas, lost contract employees who inspect restaurants, hotels, grocery stores, processing plants and other businesses that prepare and sell food. At the same time, the remaining inspectors will have a larger area to serve.

Not all inspectors lost their jobs, but the cuts in all counties account for $245,000, about 8.5% of the state’s food safety budget.

Bottom line: Restaurants where my family eats will have fewer inspections and possibly less thorough ones when they are checked.

We all know that stringent food safety protocols in the field, packinghouse/processing facility and in the distribution chain are all for naught if a restaurant employee cuts the salad lettuce with a knife used for deboning a chicken.

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The FDA recently notified cereal makers to stop marketing their sugar-coated product as healthy.

Good news.

But now the bad news — hardly shocking: The Chicago Tribune reported those same companies promised to market healthier breakfasts to children three years ago but little has changed since then.

According the Tribune, most of the cereal makers do have healthy brands, but the cereals advertised to children contain 85% more sugar and 60% more sodium.

E-mail ckoger@thepacker.com

What are your hopes for the new FDA deputy commissioner of foods? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.