Government Shutdown Stresses Food Inspections

Margaret Hamburg is shown. | AP Photo

Global cereal production, which includes wheat and corn, is expected to be 8% higher over 2012s level, at 2.49 billion tons. The U.S., the worlds largest corn producer, is responsible for the bulk of the increase, expected to harvest a record crop of 348 million tonsthats 27% higher than the previous year. U.S. corn supplies have been tight since the size of last years harvest was hit by severe drought. But after high acreage seeded with corn this spring and largely favorable summer weather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts record U.S. corn output this year. That should push corn prices lower. Current levels mark a drastic turnaround since food prices soared to new heights in early 2011 amid global supply constraints for cereals, sugar and cocoa. Rising food prices helped spark the unrestknown as the Arab Springthat analysts say ultimately ousted the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The London-based International Grains Council this month said world corn production during the 2013-14 crop year will hit 943.2 million tons. It also predicted that world wheat production will increase to 692.6 million tons, reflecting better prospects for the European crop than previously expected and a larger harvest out of Russia and Ukraine.

Fast-food giants want pizza the action in Africa

The agency is maintaining 55 percent of its 14,779 employees while in shutdown mode, but this includes workers who focus on drugs, tobacco and other nonfood areas, many of which have budgets propped up by industry user fees. Remarkably, the shutdown plan is more generous than the outline floated in 2011, the last time the federal government was facing the brink. Under that plan, the administration deemed only 14 percent of FDAs workforce essential. Still, food safety advocates are very concerned about the direct hit to food safety. ( Also on POLITICO: Senate CR to strip Monsanto rider ) Ceasing routine food inspections is not ideal, experts say, especially because FDA is already so short-staffed compared with the size of its jurisdiction. During the 2012 fiscal year, the agency inspected about 10,000 of the 167,000 domestic food manufacturers. Overseas, it was able to get into 1,300 of the 254,000 food facilities registered with the agency. According to the plan released by the administration, FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities. That includes routine food manufacturer inspections, compliance and enforcement of food safety regulations and food import monitoring. When it comes to the CDC, which is operating with 32 percent of its 12,825 employees during the shutdown, health experts worry the disease surveillance system for detecting foodborne illness could be hampered by the loss of personnel. ( Also on POLITICO: Harvard, NRDC: Expire dates key to stopping food waste ) While the public learns of maybe only a dozen high-profile national foodborne illness outbreaks each year, at any given point there are dozens of clusters of illnesses tied to food and investigators try to pinpoint the cause. CDCs PulseNet a crucial part of the agency that tracks and monitors foodborne illnesses across the country has been hit hard by the shutdown. Each year, PulseNet monitors 250 clusters of foodborne disease and only 10 to 15 get high-profile media attention.

African franchises often introduce new dishes to cater to local tastes. Domino’s Chicken Jollof Pizza is inspired by a rice-based dish popular in West Africa. The Hero Chicken Suya pizza was also created specially for Nigerian customers. Domino’s Pizza opens its first store in Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos, in 2012. KFC in Accra, Ghana. The chain has more than 700 restaurants in Africa. The opening of a new KFC in Ibadan, Nigeria. HIDE CAPTION Fast Food Continent – Burger King Fast Food Continent U.S. fast food brands are increasingly opening branches across Africa KFC has outlets in 14 African countries, with over 700 KFCs in South Africa Pizza chain Domino’s plans three more African branches by the end of this year African branches often introduce new dishes to cater to local tastes (CNN) — Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic renaissance is fueling an investment drive by fast food joints looking to tap the continent’s growing middle class. The likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Domino’s pizza are opening up in African growth markets from Nigeria to Angola to give consumers a taste of U.S. cuisine. Elias Schulze, managing partner of The Africa Group , a boutique Africa-focused investment consultancy, said U.S. takeout stores are rapidly becoming “aspirational brands” for cosmopolitan Africans with disposable income.