FDA's Taylor: carrying coal to Newcastle and preaching to the choir

02/17/2011 05:33:06 PM
Tom Karst

Michael Taylor of the FDA gave a notable speech in London to the Global Food Safety Conference.

From my quick time evaluation of what he said, it is apparent the FDA has been thinking long and hard about the import provisions of the food safety law.

One opening graph spelled out this "loud and clear" intent:


"And I want to convey today one message loud and clear:

"The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act only heightens the imperative that we in the United States work in partnership with the global food safety community to meet the public’s high expectations for the safety of food, no matter its origin."

TK: What does that exactly mean? The U.S. will link hands with the capabilities of foreign governments? The FDA will rely on third party inspectors and auditing companies? Help us figure this out?

Probably all of the above.

Taylor used the phrase "carrying coals to Newcastle" in his thoughts of speaking to the food safety group about the global food safety system, the importance of third party auditors and the importance of integrating food safety into supply chain management.

Wait, you interject; what does carrying coals to Newcastle mean? Basically, to do something
To do something "pointless and superfluous." You wouldn't carry coals to Newcastle since there is much coal there already. Savvy?

"Carrying coals to Newcastle" and the meaning is somewhat akin to "preaching to the choir," a metaphor which Taylor later used.

These guys in the London conference know all about these topics. It is the rest of us that have some catching up to do....

Taylor's speech had a few interesting nuggets, primarily related to potentially expanded roles for third party inspectors and auditors. Here are a few select quotes:

"We also know that the food safety challenge and food safety solutions have to be understood and addressed globally, which is why and our new food safety law establishes a new paradigm for FDA’s oversight of imported food.

In fact, the globalization of the food supply was a major force driving passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Consider just a few numbers: 15 percent of the entire U.S. food supply is imported, including about 50 percent of our fresh fruits, 20 percent of our vegetables, and 80 percent of our seafood.

It is for these reasons – high public expectations and expanding trade in food – that the effort to improve food safety and to build prevention in from farm to table is a global movement…and is good business."


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