Last week, 23 children in India died after eating lunches contaminated with toxic levels of the pesticide monocrotophos, which is banned in nearly 50 countries worldwide. While officials have yet to pinpoint the source of contamination, lax standards and inspection processes along the chain most likely led to the tragedy.
Shelly L. Burgess, media affairs team leader with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told FoodProductionDaily.com that such catastrophic incidents will not happen in the States. She added that the FDA, Environmental Protection Agency and other government entities all are charged with protecting food and consumers against pesticide contamination.
“While the EPA is responsible for pesticide licensing including establishing official tolerances [maximum allowable amounts] for particular pesticides and individual crops, FDA takes its role regarding pesticides very seriously,” Burgess said.
Working with other agencies such as the FDA, Burgess said, the EPA helps prevent food from being contaminated, and removes food from circulation in the odd chance that contamination does occur.
“The FDA protects consumers by monitoring the food supply for excessive levels of pesticides in foods and pesticides in food products for which EPA has not established a tolerance,” Burgess said. “Food products found to present a health risk because they contain pesticides in amounts greater than EPA tolerances, or for which tolerances have not been established, would be subject to regulatory action by FDA to remove them from the marketplace.”
A recent look at the food-safety testing market indicates that food manufacturers, government bodies and other parties are increasing vigilance in protecting food against pesticides, pathogens and other contaminants. Reportlinker.com indicates the testing market in the US alone is espected to grow from $3.7 million in 2012 to $5.6 million by 2018.
The US leads the globe in food-safety testing expenditures. Part of the reason is increasingly stringent regulation, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), calling for stepped-up efforts in guarding food all along the supply chain.