I don’t know about you but I can’t keep up with them. So here is another million pound recall of hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This time, the USDA was on the job testing hamburger at the retail level. Good work. USDA has safety rules (HACCP with pathogen reduction) for meat and poultry packers. Now, how about enforcing them? Or is that too much to ask?
Currently browsing posts about: Meat safety
Would you believe 5 million pizzas? 5 million! That’s a lot of pepperoni.
I’ll say it again: how bad does it have to get? We know how to produce safe food. If companies aren’t producing safe food, it’s because they are leaving it up to customers to cook foods properly, cutting corners, or just don’t care–and because nobody is making them. I’ll say it again: How bad does it have to get to get Congress to call for a farm-to-table food safety system in this country, one that requires companies to follow standard food safety procedures, test to make sure they are working, and pay dearly if they are not.
According to news reports, the USDA has just announced that it plans to hold companies accountable for producing safe beef. USDA safety officials say they are taking aggressive steps (see list) to reduce outbreaks from E. coli and other pathogens. As I keep saying, companies know how to produce safe meat, but need some encouragement (translation: enforcement) to do so. The USDA absolutely has the mandate to enforce food safety regulations and let’s hope it really does.
So now we know (courtesy of the New York Times) why E. coli O157:H7 recalls are becoming more frequent: the meat industry isn’t following food safety rules. These rules were require meat and poultry producers to develop and monitor plans for producing safe food, and to test to make sure the plans are working. Two problems here: the companies aren’t bothering to follow the rules, and the onsite USDA inspectors aren’t bothering to enforce them. Standard food safety rules–HACCP and pathogen reduction–work really well, but only if designed, followed, and enforced to the letter and spirit. I keep asking: what will it take to get Congress to act on the food safety issue?
I’ve just discovered Meat & Poultry, an excellent source of information about current recalls and other industry gossip. The site describes two new E. coli O157:H7 recalls, which now must be added to the “sudden spike” of 14 others this year. Are incidents and outbreaks increasing because the industry is getting sloppier, or is the surveillance system getting better? Whatever. If we had a farm-to-table food safety system, we might be able to answer this question and do something about it.
Yesterday’s USA Today carried an article on the latest word on food safety from the excellent Julie Schmit (who, along with Elizabeth Weise, deserves a Pulitzer for their outstanding reporting on the pet food recall and on food safety issues in general). Here we go again with outbreaks of the nasty E. coli 0157:H7 from meat produced by Topps, which had to recall nearly 22 million pounds of hamburger and promptly went out of business, and Cargill, among others. As I discussed at length in my book, Safe Food, we know perfectly well how to produce food free of harmful pathogens. If companies aren’t doing it, it’s out of ignorance, laziness, or greed. We do not have a farm-to-table food safety program in this country. We need one. How many more incidents of this type must we go through before Congress makes public health a priority? This is an issue for Congress. Start lobbying…