Monday, April 23, 2007

careful what you eat, eugene

From the Washington Post:

"The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show."

But they had to rely on producers to police themselves.

I accept that it is probably acceptable to allow businesses with good records to police themselves when it comes to food safety. The FDA simply can't test everything, everywhere, and risk analysis shows that usually, this is safe. But you'd think that with repeat offenders like the Georgia peanut butter plant, the standard of oversight would be higher.

Meanwhile, a former food industry executive Peter Kovacs points out that we really don't know how safe Chinese and other foreign foods are -- just look at the pet food mess. He says we need a stricter set of regulations to make sure food ingredients are traceable (as in Europe), and we "should impose strict liability on manufacturers that fail to enforce traceability standards."

I read this wondering what the catch is. Maybe there is one -- maybe Kovacs thinks that such standards will be easier for US producers to meet than low-cost producers in Asia or Latin America, and that will offer a little protectionism as well as food safety protection. Or maybe he's sincere... but I read anything by former industry executives with healthy degrees of skepticism that maybe isn't fair to Kovacs.


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