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Is the Blueplate Special Safe? You'll Have to Take Producers' Word for It

Fresh fish is displayed at a New York market.
Mark Lennihan

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have the staff to inspect all food imported to the U.S., raising basic health concerns and forcing consumers to take producers' word that it’s safe, a food expert said.

Michael Doyle, director of food safety at the University of Georgia, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” that about 80% of the nation’s fresh and frozen seafood is imported from Asia.

“I believe we’re quite vulnerable because less than 1% of the food that’s under FDA jurisdiction is actually inspected,” Doyle said Thursday. “So, we have to take other countries' word for it that the food is safe.”

Melanene, a Chinese pesticide that led to a recent recall of pet food, was found by the company importing the food. It’s not a material inspectors generally look for.  

Food Fears

“The reality of it is that we’re getting so much food from so many different countries, and there are so many things that can go wrong, that we need a better inspection system to assure ourselves that it’s safe,” Doyle said.

Edward Steele, president of EAS Consulting and a 30-year veteran of the FDA, said the governmental agency does the best it can.

“I think they’re doing quite well under the circumstances,” Steele said. “The problem is they do not have enough resources, and those resources are being cut as we speak.”

He said the FDA concentrates its limited resources in areas that it believes pose the highest risk, because it’s impossible to inspect all the food imported to the United States.

About 45% of the nation’s fresh fruit and 17% of its fresh vegetables are imported.