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Though there is no set rule for differentiating between the different types of food safety regulations, although there are ways of breaking them down. Categorizing such regulations by imports, distribution and food service is one way to do it, and will cover many different issues. No matter which division in food regulations is being discussed, the goal of all rules and laws is the same - to keep the food supply safe, and stop food borne illness. Depending on the division, multiple agencies could have a hand in enforcing food safety issues.
Food safety regulations dealing with imports are among the most common, and controversial, of all food regulations. Some countries may see certain regulations as another country's way of unfairly influencing the balance of trade, and so politics has the potential to play into these decision in all directions. For example, while some countries have no problem importing cheese made with unpasteurized milk, others do. The same applies to genetically-modified crops, which have received broad acceptance in the United States, but are met with suspicion in Europe and other places in the world. Regulations in this division are usually enforced by a national department of agriculture.
Distribution, which includes processing, is another common place where food safety regulations focus. It is especially important to stop food borne illness at this level simply because the potential impact is so great. Contaminated food at this level could spread all over a country, multiple countries, or even the world. If unsafe, a massive recall effort would be needed. This is often very costly and, depending upon the illness, could be very dangerous for many people. Regulations include such things as food sanitation, and measures meant to stop cross-contamination. This is also usually the responsibility of a national department of agriculture.
Food regulations focusing on food service will be concerned with food handling and food safety standards. This may include cooking meats to a certain heat, or at least giving consumers ample warning if the meat is not cooked to that heat, making sure salad bars remain a certain temperature, and other such safety measures. It will also include measures, such as making sure employees practice good hygiene and possibly wear hair nets if preparing food. These regulations will also look at the overall cleanliness of a food preparation and serving area. This is usually handled by a state or local health department.
Those companies or restaurants that disregard food safety regulations will likely be fined, and could even be shut down until corrective action is taken. Therefore, most of these businesses will do whatever is necessary to comply with regulations. Food safety regulations related to the importation of food may be the only case where a business is totally powerless to do something about the situation.