Feel like an open-faced sandwich for lunch? Every day, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects manufacturers of open-faced meat and poultry sandwiches sold via interstate commerce.
Prefer that sandwich to have two pieces of bread instead of just one? The sandwich then becomes the inspection responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); chances are, its manufacturer gets inspected only once every ten years instead of every day.
Welcome to America's food-inspection system. The food we eat is checked (or not) by a patchwork of agencies with confusing responsibilities, and some critics say the system compromises the safety of our entire food supply, from farm to table.
Currently there are no less than 15 different federal agencies overseeing domestic and imported food, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Marine Fisheries Service. The majority of our food, however, is under the jurisdiction of either the USDA or the FDA.
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