Food Engineering

Editor's Note: Come hell and high water

April 1, 2011
As we have sadly learned, no one nation, person or business is immune from the wrath of Mother Nature.

Last month’s devastating earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster in Japan have given new meaning to the challenge of keeping the global food supply safe and have caused economists who predicted America was on the road to economic recovery to rethink their position.

While the chance of any contaminated food from Japan getting into North American markets is slim, the face of food safety has been altered by the fury of Mother Nature.  Neighboring nations such as South Korean are screening all imported Japanese foods, while Hong Kong has plans to source food from alternate suppliers.

The Japanese disaster has also caused America and other nations to rethink dependence on nuclear power and call for domestic nuclear plant inspections. Meanwhile legislators and the American public are asking what Uncle Sam is doing to protect his citizens from potentially affected foods and the air they breathe. According to FDA, foods from Japan make up less than 4 percent of foods imported from all sources. (In contrast, food products from Canada and Mexico each make up about 29 percent of all imported foods.)

New York Times and Wall Street Journal reports warn the lethal mixture of unprecedented uprisings in the Middle East, rising food and oil prices, and the lack of exported Japanese automobile, electronics and related parts and goods could undermine not only America’s economic rebound, but that of the entire global economy. If big business starts to slow job creation or halt capital expenditures because of the disaster, we’re in for a longer recessionary haul.

The good news is the resilience of the Japanese people to overcome the devastation, of course with a little help from the global community. Regardless of the outcome, it’s an excellent time for American business to reflect on its disaster preparedness and keeping our food supply chain safe every day, come hell or high water. As we have sadly learned, no one nation, person or business is immune from the wrath of Mother Nature.