98% of US Food Imports Don't Actually Get Inspected

In Depth

It turns out only about 2% of the food that comes into the US gets inspected by the FDA. NOT TO FREAK YOU GUYS OUT OR ANYTHING.

The reason for this is neither complicated nor surprising: the FDA only has 475 inspectors, not remotely enough to do the job of actually inspecting even a majority of the food that gets into the country daily. Since 17% of our food consists of imports, this is somewhat of an issue.* They tend to target food from “problem” countries (China) or companies that have been known to have tainted food issues (China) in the past (China China China), as well as specific foods more likely to be an issue (vegetables, fruits, and seafood primarily). Even then, they reject plenty of food as being unsafe, so it’s probably a decent bet that a lot more unhealthy stuff makes it through unnoticed. A government agency underfunded and unable to do its job? I’m shocked! That never happens lately!

This in particular feels deliberate. Would it shock anyone if anti-government legislators were waiting for some major problem to arise just so they could blame it on “the ineffectiveness of government” again and call for even less regulation? Defunding government agencies and then blaming them for lack of competence when they fail is basically option 1A in the Republican playbook. I would criticize them for putting their personal politics and bullshit ideology above the welfare of average Americans, but since they’ve been doing this shit for six years, at this point I’m basically left with a resigned sigh.

* Important caveat: this doesn’t include meat and poultry, which are handled by the Department of Agriculture.

Image via Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.

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