Survey Says: The People Want Government Food Safety Oversight

Results of a new consumer opinion poll released today present some interesting conclusions when it comes to consumer confidence in the safety of our food.  One of the major findings is something California leafy greens producers have known for some time – consumers overwhelmingly believe there should be government oversight of food safety.  To be specific, in this new poll by Harris Interactive, when 2,236 American adults were asked about their opinions on the issue of food safety, three-quarters said they wanted more government oversight.

This is very similar to the findings of another survey conducted by an independent research firm for the leafy greens industry in 2008.  That survey showed that when the LGMA food safety program was explained to consumers as a system of “mandatory farm inspections by the government to verify compliance with the food safety practices,” 89% favored this approach to food safety. In addition, knowledge of this program raised consumer confidence in leafy greens from a baseline level of 47% up to 70%.

What we can gather in considering these two research projects is that consumers are still very supportive of government oversight when it comes to food safety and it makes them more confident in the safety of their food. This is the very reason leafy greens shippers opted to go with a system of mandatory government food safety audits in the first place. And, it is the reason we now have a Food Safety Modernization Act.

Giving consumers what they want can cost money, however.  Earlier this week Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food and Veterinary Medicine, speaking at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, stated that “we cannot achieve FDA’s vision of a modern food safety system and a safer food supply without a significant increase in resources.”

In this same address to the House committee, Taylor expressed strong support for the LGMA. What many don’t understand is that the LGMA is a system that provides government oversight of food safety in the leafy greens community. But it is paid for by industry and, therefore, does not require additional resources from tax dollars.  In our public comments to FSMA’s Produce Safety Rule, the LGMA has asked FDA to utilize our program to verify that leafy greens shippers are compliant with new laws under FSMA.   Because of the LGMA, 90 percent of the leafy greens produced in the United States are already grown under a system of mandatory government oversight to verify practices are being followed that meet or exceed those contained in FSMA.  If the FDA accepts our proposal it could expedite new food safety laws for leafy greens at no cost to the public. According to all the surveys we know of, this sounds like exactly what the people want.   

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