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.

  • Bill;
    Mandating testing likely causes a moral hazard regress. People end up taking less precautions because they think the food is safer for being tested.
    A law which requires that the food company keep all copies of any safety tastes done, for the appropriate period, might have enough litigation bite for the food company to test throughly.
    You also need some safe harbor clause which allows the company to alert the FDA on a timely basis without fear of substantial litigation.

  • Marymary

    A filthy nut processing plant. This sounds eerily familiar.

  • Please add this to your serious discussion about food safety- the nut farmers who had nothing to do with these problems because they happened by the processors, how will they be compensated for their devastating losses? How about those tomato farmers last year who lost millions, maybe billions, by being falsely accused of pathogens when it turned out to be peppers from Mexico? More and more domestic farmers are going out of business as a result of these crushing losses, which means more of these food items will probably be imported from far away, places that have little to no food safety protocols, inspections, etc. Have you ever thought of defending the farmers in a large class action lawsuit against the Peanut Corporation or these other processors that knowingly contaminate their nuts with rat poop, cockroaches, etc?? Maybe with the money you earn them, they can start their own processing co-ops where they have better control over the safety and handling of their products.