Who is Responsible for This?
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know I talk a lot about food. If you follow my twitter feed you’ll know I sometimes use social media to…um…express my feelings about how our government regulates our food supply. There are some strong feelings out there about the government’s food supply management. Pesticide use, labeling GMO foods, organic food production laws, fish supply/harvesting, crop subsidies, food labels, farm workers’ rights- these are all real issues with our food supply. If you have an opinion about these issues, and I hope you do, who can you turn to? Who makes the Food Rules? Mr. Food It Yourself asked me about this earlier this week.
I wish there was a simple answer. There isn’t. Most of the agencies in charge of our food supply are part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Under that is the Public Health Service. Under the public health service we find the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The USDA plays a huge part in regulating food and farms. Under USDA supervision are: food safety inspection, the Forest Service, supplemental nutrition programs like school lunches and SNAP, development of rural communities, and our national food guide: MyPlate.
The FDA regulates foods, cosmetics and drugs. This includes designing those food labels on all our food packages, approving the use of food additives and ingredients, and tracking food-borne illness.
The NIH funds and coordinates all kinds of health research through its many offices, including research on nutrition, food allergies, and diet-related diseases.
Additionally, a division of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is in charge of monitoring populations and safety of seafood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks statistics on illnesses related to diet such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. And furthermore, these agencies all advise and inform each other. They also advise and are advised by the elected members of the federal government.
And that is just on the federal level. There are also state and local agencies that may become involved in the production of a particular food or food product. Like I said, this is complicated.
So why do DIYeters need to know this? Changes to food policy will be slow. Most every change requires input and oversight from multiple agencies. If we want to see changes to how the food supply in our country is regulated and protected we need patients and perseverance. On the plus side, we have many avenues to approach for change. We can pester the FDA on social media (Guilty!) we can contact the legislators who represent us. We can go to food processors and tell them what we think of their methods. We can produce our own food. The important thing is that we take an active role in the food supply. Give it a try! Learn about where food comes from, as well as who you can annoy contact about starting the long process of needed (?) changes to the food supply.