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By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, American Public University
There are safety and distribution laws that govern the food and beverage industry; these laws typically come from a variety of organizations. For instance, federal laws passed by Congress cover the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Also, each state has a host of laws covering the manufacture and sale of food items and beverages. These laws cover:
- Labeling, including a product’s Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)
- Food or beverages produced by local farmers
- Food and beverages that come across U.S. borders, which are subject to tariffs and NAFTA regulations
- Local, state and federal accounting procedures and taxes
- Patents and trademarks to protect products from counterfeiters
- Transportation of food and beverages
- Storage of items in warehouses or distribution centers
- Health and safety laws
- Consumer protection
- Illegal foods
- Food production, distribution and sales
But there are also laws that govern the reverse logistics side of food and beverages. These laws relate to trash/waste, recyclable materials, trash disposal, product returns, product reconstitution, recalls, hazardous materials, environmental impact, banned foods and beverages, and bioterrorism.
Some Foods and Beverages Are Banned in the US
Certain fruits, cheeses and meats are banned from entering the U.S. The reasons behind such banned foods vary; some food is simply not safe to consume or the supply of that food is dangerously limited.
Banned foods include:
- Ackee fruit
- Mangosteen fruit
- Cazu Marzu cheese
- Puffer fish
- Shark fins
- Foie gras
- Horse meat
- Ortolan (a bird)
- Wild beluga caviar
Similarly, some beverages are also banned. For example, absinthe was illegal until 1997.
Absinthe is an alcoholic drink (110 to 144 proof) which is similar to gin; it is made from grande wormwood, green anise and sweet fennel.
The wormwood contains thujone, a toxic agent. But in 2007, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), permitted the use of absinthe if it only contained a trace amount of thujone.
The famed Irish playwright Oscar Wilde famously said of absinthe: “After the first glass you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”
For hundreds of years, milk was produced and sold as unpasteurized or raw milk. Now, it is standard to see pasteurized milk in stores.
Raw or unpasteurized milk can be dangerous, because unpasteurized milk contains harmful bacteria. Raw milk is pasteurized to destroy pathogenic bacteria by heating it to 150° F to 161° F for not less than 30 minutes.
It is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in most states. In addition, the Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR Sec. 1240.61) forbids the sale of raw milk because it can carry communicable diseases. Several deaths have been linked to drinking raw or unpasteurized milk, but none in the past 11 years.
Some Foods Recalled in 2018 and 2019
The USDA establishes the rules, procedures and legal issues regarding food recalls. But a recall is a voluntary action instituted by a manufacturer, warehouse or distribution center.
A legal directive, Food and Safety Inspection (FSIS) Directive 8080.1, Recall of Meat and Poultry Products, explains the types of recalls for meats and classifies the severity of the danger to humans. Between 2018 and March 8, 2019, the FDA’s list included 849 recalls.
There are many categories of beverages but they are not subject to as many recall notices as food items. Some carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, juice and juice drinks, sports drinks, teas, coffees, energy drinks, beer and wines have been recalled over the years.
Some beverages contained bacteria such as E.coli or clostridium botulinum, while others contained bits of glass or metal particles.
Here is a sample list of recalled beverages:
- In 2013, the sports drink Vega One was recalled for possible antibiotic contamination.
- In 2015, 14 brands of bottled water were recalled due to possible E. coli contamination.
- In 2015, a Japanese tea was recalled due to “slight radioactivity” in it.
- In 2017, Bestherbs coffee was recalled because the product included an “undeclared Viagra-like ingredient.”
- The 16.9-ounce Pepsi was recalled in 2017 due to metal contamination from the manufacturing process. The Pepsi was said to have a metallic taste.
- In 2017, Sierra Nevada recalled its bottled beer because it contained “small grains or bits of glass.”
- In 2018, Red Bull recalled its energy drink “due to product degradation.”
The Good News: Food and Beverages Are Closely Monitored
To keep consumers safe, food and beverages are under constant observation by manufacturers and retail businesses. When businesses suspect they have a food or beverage that could be harmful, they voluntarily take action and do not wait for the government to order a recall notice.
Similarly, local, state and federal laws keep consumers protected from harm while also creating an incentive to create safe products. The FDA, FTC and USDA keep us safe from harmful food and beverages. These federal agencies ensure that the reverse logistics process — such as returning food and beverages to the store due to possible harm to humans or recycling sugars or other items from expired foods and beverages — is protecting our health.
About the Author
Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a full-time professor at American Public University (APU). He was program director of three academic programs: Reverse Logistics Management, Transportation and Logistics Management and Government Contracting. He was Chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Dr. Hedgepeth was the founding Director of the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Center for Logistics.