U.S. Food Inspections Said 'flawed'

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) — Problems are rife within the quality control system of the U.S. food industry, which relies on private-sector auditors, industry experts say.

Food retail executives and other experts say the voluntary system used by the country’s $1 trillion food industry is plagued by conflicts of interest, inexperienced auditors and cursory inspections that produce inflated ratings, The Washington Post reported Friday.

The use of private inspectors has increased as companies try to protect themselves from lawsuits and recalls that can damage their brand names.

But the inspections don’t necessarily mean safer products for consumers, experts say.

“It’s a business strategy, not a public-health strategy,” said David Acheson, former assistant commissioner for food protection at the Food and Drug Administration.

Large chain stores and food producers, wanting assurances about the products they place on their shelves and the ingredients they use in making food, often require that their suppliers undergo regular inspections by independent auditors.

This all takes place outside any government involvement.

Industry experts say that while such inspections can be useful, a major problem is that auditors are typically paid by the companies they are inspecting, creating a conflict of interest for inspectors who might worry about losing business if they don’t give high ratings.

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