I talked with Garance Burke of AP last evening for her story, “Tests nipped risk of tainted pistachios in bud.” Garance wrote: “The contamination was only detected because of voluntary testing by a manufacturer for Kraft Foods Inc. almost two weeks ago. Private auditors hired by Kraft later found problems they think caused the contamination at a supplier’s processing facility in central California.”
Think about it, had Kraft not done the testing and not turned over the information to the FDA, this Salmonella-tainted pistachio product might still be in the market and on consumers’ shelves – ready to eat. Kudos to Kraft.
But the fact that we are relying on companies to voluntarily test and then voluntarily report positive results should disturb us all. As Garance also wrote: “Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor state laws require food manufacturers to test the safety of their products…. You can call it a fluke, you can call it good luck, or you can call it good judgment on the part of Kraft," said Dr. David Acheson, FDA’s assistant commissioner for food safety. "They’re not required to tell us. They did and we’re moving on it."
The FDA is now warning “people … to avoid eating all pistachios and products containing them while they determine which products may be tainted.” I am sure that we will soon hear the attack that “the FDA has over-reacted.” I say they have acted in the public health and that is a good thing. See FDA Recall List.
We now need a serious discussion on food safety. Recall authority? Voluntary or mandated? Regulations? Government mandates? Industry voluntary compliance? Inspections – who should do them? Government or Industry? How often? Testing – when should they be done and by whom? Again, Government or Industry? Again, how often?
Much to "chew" on.