Does America really have the safest food supply in the world? The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year over 76 million of us become ill, 300,000 are hospitalized and over 5,000 die, just from eating food contaminated with a food borne pathogen.
As I said in a recent op-ed What to do about the “Mad Cow,” our tables, and the entire food industry, can be protected by five available and simple decisions that will help promote food safety – one, track animals from the farm to your fork; two, test for food borne pathogens; three, reconsider the use of “downer cattle;” four, give the USDA absolute authority to recall meat that may pose a risk to the public health; and, five, stop feeding animals (especially those at risk of harboring disease) to other animals.
We must require the meat industry to document where cows come from and where specific lots of meat are sold. That way, meat can be recalled quickly if a pathogen is detected anywhere in the process. Timely online records would allow meat to be efficiently tracked and recalled as soon as inspectors get a positive test result. We have the technology; we simply need to use it. The fact that the beef industry and the government did not know where the BSE-contaminated cow came from, or where its meat went, is beyond belief. If we can track online a book from Amazon.com, we should be able to do the same with a cow.
We have the ability to live up to the billing of having the safest food supply in the world. The question is whether this “Mad Cow” crisis will be the catalyst that finally starts the reform necessary to stop making US consumers ill and to regain the confidence of the World in our food supply.