With the US and South Korea now exploring a possible free trade agreement, Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the Food Products Association, says a deal between the two countries could be beneficial to the food industry.

US-South Korea trade agreement

“Currently, South Korea maintains high tariffs on processed food imports, and our exports are hindered by other technical and sanitary barriers to trade,” Dooley says.

 South Korea is America’s sixth largest trade partner in terms of agriculture, representing a $2.5 billion export market for US agricultural products.

Food inspection system under study

A report by a health advocacy group makes the case for overhauling the government’s food inspection system, pointing to what it calls obsolete laws, misallocation of resources and inconsistencies among major food safety agencies.

“Our goal should be reducing the number of Americans who get sick from foodborne illness. But we can’t adequately protect people from contaminated foods if we continue to use 100-year-old practices,” says Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, which compiled the report.

The report says an estimated 85% of known foodborne illness outbreaks are associated with foods regulated by FDA, but the agency receives less than half of the federal funding for food safety.

Bakers criticize ethanol policy

With food prices escalating at both the wholesale and retail levels, America’s bakers are speaking out against federal ethanol mandates.

“Why are we putting food in our gas tanks instead of our stomachs?” asked Rich Reinwald, owner of Reinwald’s Bakery and first vice president of the Retail Bakers of America, in testimony before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee last month.

The bakers’ group says food price inflation in the first quarter of this year almost matched the rate for all of 2007, straining consumers’ budgets to the breaking point. The bakers added their voices to those calling on Congress to roll back its requirements for biofuels production.