Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

A Matter of Debate: Developing National Retail Food Policy

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

A Matter of Debate: Developing National Retail Food Policy

Article excerpt


Unlike manufactured foods that are regulated at the federal level, the regulatory responsibility for policy development and oversight of retail food and food service establishments falls under the combined authority of state, local, territorial, and tribal regulatory agencies (Keenan, Spice, Cole, & Banfi, 2015). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assists these agencies by offering a model Food Code that provides a "scientifically sound, technical, and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of the industry" (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017, p. iii). As a national standard, the Food Code consists of a uniform system of provisions addressing food safety and protection in retail food and food service establishments (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2017). It is published every 4 years as a full edition and every 2 years as a supplement between full editions.

While regulatory agencies of retail food at the state level have the discretion to adopt the Food Code, stakeholders encourage adoption as a means of supporting national uniformity (Connecticut Department of Public Health, 2017; Food and Drug Administration, 2011, n.d.). At the same time, these agencies play a significant role in the development of the Food Code. This form of vertical (or top-down) policy diffusion in which national policy influences state-level policy adoption highlights the symbiotic relationship that exists between state and federal regulators in the development of national retail food policy (Lyson, 2016; Shipan & Volden, 2012).

Through participation in the biennial meetings of the Conference for Food Protection (CFP), an organization that brings together scientists, industry, academia, consumers, and policy makers from all levels of government to deliberate and formulate, among other things, recommended changes to the Food Code, state retail food regulatory agencies actively participate in the process of discussing pressing and emerging national retail food safety issues and debating proposed changes to the Food Code (Conference for Food Protection, 2012). This guest commentary suggests a stock issues framework--a common structure specifying key arguments--for retail food policy debate as a way to consistently deliberate the most salient aspects of policy propositions.

Policy Debate and the Conference for Food Protection

Long described as a means of problem solving, policy analysis--the process of evaluating policy options to determine the most effective, efficient, and feasible policy action (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control [CDC], 2012)--is essential to policy development (Bardach & Patashnik, 2016; CDC, 2013; Dunn, 2012). As problems in the public domain affect many stakeholders, the process of policy analysis often involves debate among the different stakeholders. Policy debate refers to the process of introducing a policy proposition and allowing differing and sometimes opposing views to be heard and critically evaluated. During such debates, stakeholders often discuss the need, importance, significance, and impact of various policy solutions.

While debates over potential policy solutions to today's retail food safety problems can occur within associations, advisory groups, and regulatory agencies long before being presented at the biennial CFP meeting, CFP serves as the primary venue for introducing and vetting proposed changes to the Food Code. In fact, it is the inclusive nature of the debates that occur at CFP that fosters a broad perspective, evidenced from having all major stakeholders represented, and thus lends credence to final CFP policy recommendations. At the CFP meeting, debate occurs on three different councils where members decide whether to accept, amend, or take no action on propositions. An Assembly of State Delegates, which includes representatives from state, territorial, and District of Columbia retail food regulatory agencies, then considers and votes on the actions recommended by the councils (CFP, 2012). …

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