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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Safe Food in the US is a Train Wreck

I missed a call from Josh Funk of Omaha AP and he figures out why our food safety net has so many holes in it without me – go figure.  This quote may say it all:

"I think the food industry has a very long history of not doing anything on food safety unless it has to," said Marion Nestle, a New York University professor who wrote a book on the subject.

Josh’s full article is here and some quotes below show the problems with Food Safety in the US.

Critics decry U.S. food safety system

Peanut butter is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. But chicken pot pies are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s responsibility. Frozen cheese pizzas – FDA. But if there’s pepperoni on them, USDA has jurisdiction, too. Peanut butter is regulated by the FDA, while pot pies are regulated by the USDA, because USDA has long had authority over meat and poultry.

When Peter Pan peanut butter was linked to a salmonella outbreak in February, ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled it as soon as federal health officials raised questions. But when ConAgra’s Banquet-brand chicken and turkey pot pies were tied to a similar salmonella outbreak in October, the Omaha company waited two days to recall them, first issuing only a consumer health warning.

Neither the FDA nor the USDA had the authority to order ConAgra to recall the products. In fact, all food recalls, except for those involving infant formula, are voluntary. Often, the government gets a product recalled by warning the company it could face bad publicity if it does not withdraw the food.

Frankly, I am not sure a single agency, or the government for that matter (remember how well it did in Hurricane Katrina), will solve the problem of companies selling poisoned products to customers.  Perhaps when farmers, ranchers, shippers, middlemen of all sorts, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants all recall that customers could be their kid, they would put safety before profits.  Perhaps when politicians, governmental officials, regulators, health departments, et al, realize that they work for the people and not business, and their duty is to protect the people, Josh will have less to write about and I will be out of a job.  As I recently wrote in FOOD SAFETY MAGAZINE:

Food Safety & the CEO – Keys to Bottom Line Success

Ultimately, dedication to food safety must go beyond the company’s HACCP programs in terms of compliance, implementation, testing and auditing. This commitment starts at the top of the organization with the CEO, president and senior management team. Managing the business in a way that pays more than lip service to food safety will produce high-quality, profitable products that don’t make people sick, and is essential to the continued health of your bottom line and the health of your consumers.

One interesting thing – of the top ten recent visitors to my blog today, four of them, ConAgra, General Mills, Cargill and Tysons are food companies – three who I have sued, some repeatedly.

The bloggers at "barfblog" quoted some of my above ramblings this afternoon in a post entitled:

Will more inspectors make food safer?

Doug Powell expressed a similar notion this morning, "You can’t inspect your way to a safe food supply," said Douglas Powell, scientific director at Kansas State University’s International Food Safety Network. "You can’t have an inspector on every site 24/7 to inspect every piece of food that goes to market. You have to create a culture where everyone from the farm to the processing facility, people at restaurants, consumers at home are more in tune with the culture of food safety. People need to get really religious about this. Food safety is everyone’s responsibility."

To drive the point home that our food is at risk, see Dave Savini, Investigative Reporter of CBS 2 Chicago WBBM TV report called – "What’s for Dinner?"

  • Will more inspectors make food safer?

    No. An Associated Press story last night continues the fascination with all things political and the on-going, bureaucratic discussion about whether a single food inspection agency will improve food safety. The story notes that in the two ConAgra conta…

  • Lexington, Kentucky Woman, Vickie Shelton, may have died from E. coli-tainted hamburger produced by American Foods Group

    Knox Times-Tribune staff writer Heather Cole wrote, “the death of a Knox County woman is under investigation and E. coli O157:H7 bacteria is believed to be the source of her illness. Vickie Shelton, 47, died Monday afternoon at Central Baptist…

  • E. coli O157:H7 — It’s back, with a vengeance

    Not too long ago, I wondered if the beef industry had actually wised up, and was about to put me out of the business of representing the people they make sick. After a decade of nearly continuous outbreaks of deadly…