A Food Safety Crisis?

Food safety has been a hot topic in the United States for the past few years. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration proposed rules to help strengthen the safety of imported food and the comment periods on two proposed rule regarding food packaging and safety have twice been extended, all while foodborne infection rates rise after the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (P.L. 111-353).

More recently, food safety has been in the headlines for food-related scares. Since July 29th, 2013, the following food related recalls have been initiated:

  • August 06, 2013 Heeren Brothers Recalls Cantaloupe Because of Possible Health Risk
  • August 06, 2013 Gold Star Smoked Fish Corp. Issues an Alert on Listeria in Baltic Treasures, Norwegian Style Matjes, Marinella “Delicatessnaya,” Jewish Style Matjes, Traditional Russian Matjes, and Rybacka Wies Matjes Brands of Herring Fillets in Oil
  • August 05, 2013 Zip International Group, LLC Recalls Baltic Sprats in Spicy Brine Because of Possible Health Risk
  • August 02, 2013 Evershing International Trading Inc. Announces Recall of Ginger Candy
  • July 31, 2013 Whole Foods Market recalls Trois Comtois Morbier cheese because of possible health risk

All of these recalls come on the heels of a Washington Post article suggesting that chemicals in poultry plants are masking the presence of salmonella. The FDA has also been involved in a multi-state investigation of over 466 cases of Cyclospora across 17 states. The outbreak was traced to a salad mix served at restaurants such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which are owned by Darden Restaurants. The salad came from foreign supplier  Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V., which has been cooperating with all FDA requests during the investigation. According to the agency:

The FDA and the firm will be conducting an environmental assessment of the firm’s processing facility in Mexico, to try to learn the probable cause of the outbreak and identify preventive controls to put in place to try and prevent a recurrence. The most recent inspection, in 2011, of the processing facility of Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V. conducted by FDA found no notable issues. Additionally, as a result of the current investigation FDA is increasing its surveillance efforts on green leafy products exported to the U.S. from Mexico.

It remains to be seen if the push by the Food and Drug Administration to strengthen the safety of food in the United States will lead to fewer recalls and infections, but it remains clear that more work needs to be done to ensure food is safe for consumption.