report was published. Together, these developments contribute to the current context for food safety in the United States, which is characterized by a number of features that must inform any assessment of the food safety system. These include changes in the food production landscape, climate change, changing consumer perceptions and behaviors, globalization and increased food importation, the role of labor–management relations and workplace safety, heightened concern about bioterrorism, increased levels of pollution in the environment, and the signing of international trade agreements.
In addition to constant changes in food production and substantial growth in the number of food facilities (the number regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] grew by 10 percent between 2003 and 2007 [GAO, 2008a]), the food and agriculture sector has experienced widespread integration and consolidation in recent years. For example, the consolidation of supermarkets has changed the retail grocery landscape in the United States, leading to the dominance of the industry by a small number of large companies. Apart from consequences for the market share of small retailers, the greater dependence of manufacturers on this limited number of retailers for sales volume gives these companies significant leverage to bargain for lower prices and demand safety standards. The result has been an increased tendency to establish private standards, which has changed the enterprise of food safety (Henson and Humphrey, 2009).
For example, large retailers and customers established the Food Safety Leadership Council on Farm Produce Standards to develop standards for the growing and harvesting of fresh produce (FSLC, 2007). Another private effort was the Global Food Safety Initiative, created in 2000 to set common benchmarks for different national and industry food safety programs. Its standards, now used widely around the world, require that the food protection practices of manufacturers of food, including produce, meat, fish, poultry, and ready-to-eat products such as frozen pizza and microwave meals, be audited at regular intervals (GFSI, 2007). Farmers, shippers, and processors in the business of producing leafy greens may participate in the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, a private mechanism operating with oversight from the California Department of Food and Agriculture that verifies whether growers are following certain food safety practices (LGMA, 2010). Adoption of these private standards could be seen as an enhancement of food safety; however, private standards can also impose unnecessary burdens if they are not scientifically justified. For example, private standards may result in unnecessarily higher food prices (DeWaal and Plunkett, 2007). Therefore, a close look at such standards is warranted. As an alternative, public standards can be instituted. For example, Tomato