Safety and Quality Laws in the Food Industry

If you own a business or establishment that sells food, you will know that the food industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. This is for good reason, as the safety of our food supply is incredibly important. There are a variety of laws and regulations in place at the federal, state, and local level that govern everything from food production and processing to labeling and advertising.

This article will explore some of the major safety and quality laws that apply to the food industry, then look at franchises and recent controversies surrounding these laws. Let’s dive in.

Food Safety and Quality

Food safety and quality laws are a set of regulations that are designed to protect the public from the hazards of foodborne illness. These laws are enforced by the federal government through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The FDA is responsible for ensuring that foods are safe and properly labeled, while the USDA is responsible for inspecting meat, poultry, and eggs. Both agencies work together to ensure that food manufacturers and retailers follow these safety laws. Labeling food correctly can save lives when it comes to allergies and can prevent issues of obesity when it comes to being honest about fat content.

Safe food handling practices include proper sanitation, cooking, storage, and labeling procedures. All employees who handle food must be properly trained in these practices. Failure to comply with safety and quality laws can result in serious penalties, including fines and prison sentences.

In addition to protecting consumers from misleading information about their food’s nutritional values and contents, food quality and safety laws help to ensure that food products are safe for human consumption. By adhering to these regulations, food manufacturers can help to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness and other health problems.

Compliance with Food Safety and Quality Regulations

There are many methods and techniques for ensuring the safety and quality of the food we eat. For instance, during the food production and processing stage, chicken meat can undergo scans from chicken bone x-ray inspection equipment to ensure that there is no bone, cartilage, or other foreign materials in the meat that should not be there. X-raying food is perfectly safe and does not change the product or turn it radioactive, as x-rays have very low radiation.

Moreover, businesses must keep detailed records of their food production and processing activities. These records must be made available to government inspectors upon request. Surprise inspections can be carried out to ensure that proper food quality and safety practices are being adhered to at all times in food establishments. This keeps businesses honest.

Franchises

When a restaurant sells franchises, the owners of the franchise can make certain decisions about how closely they will follow the company’s policies and practices. However, some level of compliance is non-negotiable. A company or individual cannot buy a franchise of a well-known food vendor and proceed to sell food under their name and brand that does not comply with their safety and quality stipulations.

Of course, on top of the business’ personal policies, all franchises, as with any other establishment in the food industry, must comply with FDA and USDA laws and practices. Franchises have a dual responsibility to the government and to the mother business.

McDonald’s is a well-known fast-food business that operates around the world. As well as owning many of its own locations, the McDonald’s company also sells franchises. It is stipulated in the franchise contracts   that all McDonald’s franchisees must comply with the “McDonald’s System” when they operate a McDonald’s restaurant. This system is a series of business practices and procedures that are implemented, in part, to ensure uniform food quality at all McDonald’s locations.

Controversies

False and misleading health claims on food packaging are a significant controversy in the food industry. There has been some confusion around the FDA’s lack of care to check that food is labeled honestly and correctly in terms of nutritional content.

For instance, when a package says “low fat”, a consumer would expect this to be an honest truth about the contents of the packaging. However, this is not always the case. Consumers should take it upon themselves to research how much fat they should be consuming in a day so they can see for themselves based on the ingredients if food really is low-fat.

What’s more, there have been controversies over labeling products “natural”. A natural food product is defined by the USDA as a product that contains no artificial flavoring or coloring. Moreover, it has no chemical preservatives or other artificial or synthetic ingredients. The term “natural” is used too loosely in the food industry and this can be misleading.

An example of a processing and packaging scandal is the presence of arsenic in some water bottles. In June 2020, Consumer Reports ran tests on 45 water bottle brands to see what they were using to package water. The brand Starkey Spring Water, which is sold in Whole Foods, was found to contain concerning levels of arsenic in its bottles.

For a product sold anywhere, this is shocking, but especially in a store so concerned with health and quality. These bottles were revealed to contain three times the amount of arsenic than any other brand tested.

This has been a brief guide to understanding the food quality and safety laws that govern the food industry. The article has looked at food production and processing regulations and methods for checking the quality and safety of food at this stage. For instance, the chicken bone x-ray. Moreover, it has discussed labeling and advertising of food.

Regardless of whether the business is your own or a franchise of someone else’s company, it is vital that you follow the procedures and policies for quality food production and honest advertising. Look up the USDA’s definitions of terms like “natural” and “low fat” and make sure that if you use them, they apply to your products.