Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Food Safety article in WSJ

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article today on Food Safety. Something I feel is well worth your reading time. I'm including a bit but please check out their webpage at this link for the complete article.

Salmonella Outbreak Exposes Food-Safety Flaws

Lack of Preparation
And Poor Records
Cause Delays, Errors
July 23, 2008; Page A2

The twisting road that led federal investigators to announce Monday that they found a single contaminated jalapeƱo pepper grown in Mexico and sitting at a distribution center in McAllen, Texas -- the smoking gun in the continuing salmonella outbreak long blamed on tomatoes -- has exposed problems in the U.S. food-safety system.

After weeks of trying to get to the bottom of the outbreak, it occurred to investigators in late June that they had to look beyond fresh tomatoes. In at least two large clusters of illnesses, tomatoes weren't a factor, and cases kept piling up after the government had warned consumers to avoid eating fresh tomatoes.

Hurdles to the probe ranged from poor record-keeping for tracking fresh produce to some overwhelmed state health departments to the fact that jalapeƱos had never before been implicated in a salmonella outbreak.

"It's a mess -- that's part of the problem with the food-safety system we have today," said Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety. "When folks get together at the table, no one is officially in charge. Sometimes one person talks over another."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of 12 federal agencies responsible for food safety, relies heavily on state health departments to test stool samples. But some states don't have the money or resources to handle that task quickly. Delays in reporting -- Texas, with the largest number of cases, had a backlog -- slowed the probe.