Thursday, February 21, 2008

Food law and the future

Food legislation has come a long way since the days of Dr Wiley and his 'poison squad' yet, in a sense, it is still in its infancy. Although it can be safely assumed that the loaf of bread or carton of yoghurt you buy in the local supermarket is not going to endanger your health, representatives of the food industry are the first to admit that the process of evaluating food safety still lacks refinement. It is not yet so effective that it can determine the precise risk associated with ingredients and food products in all patterns of consumption and in all circumstances of use. To do this, still greater scientific initiative is necessary.

Diet Start

An important question is: Even once actual risks can be estimated or established with reasonable certainty, will the public accept that information? Public perception of risks associated with food is affected by many subjective considerations, as well as by external influences over which there is often little or no control (such as the media, advertisements, hearsay and food 'quacks').

The industry needs no reminding as to its responsibilities. Not only does criminal law stipulate these (much more so than for any other section of industry) but manufacturers also set their own standards. Most importantly, none of the controls is sacrosanct - they are continually changed to accommodate concerns thrown up by scientific advances, by technical developments and by changes in the marketplace. At the same time, it must be admitted that there is often a long time lapse between the recognition of an issue and implementation of steps to resolve that issue. Occasionally, effective action is taken only after a crisis has occurred.

In a highly developed society where the choice of foods is essentially unlimited, controlling what people eat is a matter of persuasion and education. Perhaps part of the education process is to convince you, the consumer, that while the food industry in this country is a responsible one with an excellent record and while legislators keep a constant, watchful eye over new developments in production methods, this does not mean that the food supply can be regarded as totally risk free at all times. Intelligent consumer interest and vigilance are valuable to the industry - in other words, inform yourself, never accept poor quality and complain when it is justified.

... andjoyohoxing