What Is Being Done to Solve Food Safety Problems in Philadelphia?

Today we continue our February 8, 2011 post on food recalls.

A recent recall of salad products in Philadelphia highlighted the increasing personal injury risk posed by contaminated food products in the U.S. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the number of contaminated food incidents has tripled over the past 20 years to 350 incidents annually. Last year, Edith Pearce noted, contaminated salad greens, ground beef and eggs prompted massive food product recalls, caused broad-spread illness and several wrongful deaths. A number of grocery chains implemented more-stringent food-safety requirements than those imposed by the government and began conducting independent food safety tests.

Public hew and cry over the number of food safety problems last year put pressure on Congress which overhauled the federal food-safety system for the first time since the 1930s. The $1.4 billion bill signed by President Obama emphasizes preventative measures geared to stop contaminated foods from reaching stores. The new law, for the first time, gives the FDA the authority to issue mandatory food recalls, mandates increased inspections of food-processing facilities, and places responsibility on food producers and suppliers to implement procedures to protect the safety of the food chain. While the law does not affect meat, poultry and certain egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it does affect 80% of America’s food supply.

Concern about the increasing incidence of food-bourne illness has also led to these interesting developments:

> Some grocers are using loyalty cards to locate and alert consumers who have purchased recalled products. Federal investigators are also using card data to track contaminated food outbreaks and were able to pinpoint the source of a salmonella contamination last summer using card data.

> Some egg farms are beginning to inject their poultry with a salmonella vaccine that prevents hens from passing the bacteria to their eggs. Mandated poultry vaccination in the United Kingdom has made Britain’s egg supply one of the safest in the world.