Who inspects open-face sandwiches and who inspects closed-face sandwiches? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the Department of Agriculture, the two primary agencies responsible for food safety, are locked in legislation over which inspects what.
The FDA inspects manufacturers of packaged, closed-faced meat or poultry sandwiches – those with two slices of bread – once every 5-10 years.
The FSIS inspects manufacturers of packaged, open-face meat or poultry sandwiches – those with one slice of bread – on daily basis.
Deciding what constitutes a meat or poultry product is based on how prominent a role meat plays in the product.
The FSIS argues that these divisions do not muddle food safety responsibilities, but leaders of consumer advocacy protest that the system is mired in inefficiency.
“I think they just got deeper and deeper in terms of making decisions. There’s no rhyme or reason for why open-faced sandwiches should be treated differently from closed-faced sandwiches,” said Caroline Smith-DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
In December 2005, the FSIS and FDA held a joint public meeting to discuss alleviating some food inspection complexities. Streamlining certain food categories would result in less consumer confusion and improve the efficiency of regulation, said Robert Brackett, director for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Critics say the agencies’ responsibilities need a complete overhaul.
“In the long run, they are repairing the holes in the roof, not rebuilding the house,” DeWaal said.