In an effort to protect our health, many of us have begun paying more attention to the news regarding food recalls and the safety of our food supply.
We have been learning more about our local food growers and buying more locally sourced foods that don’t travel as far or get handled as much, all in an effort to eat more healthy foods and do our small part towards earth-friendly food production.
Many of us were alarmed when the recent partial government shutdown opened the door to potential adulterated foods entering our food supply when regular food inspections were impeded.
This may have been a good lesson for some people about the impact our government inspections have on whether the foods we buy at our supermarket and serve our families are safe.
In addition to keeping food inspectors working everyday because they are important to the safety of our food supply, there are improvements in the process that are also poised to make a great impact on our food safety.
Some technological advances can help prevent contamination, some can help us track back sources of contamination, some are able to better inform consumers when a breach occurs and some will help educate growers, packers, and the public in a variety of ways.
All these advances should be pursued and supported so that we can manage a safe food chain from the beginning to the end.
Changes Could Mean Fewer Outbreaks that Threaten Our Health
Detective Foodsafe® is a strong advocate for improving the safety of our food from farm to table, as well as making us all aware of the part we play in keeping our own food safe.
Here are some of the measures that she feels will help in the effort to have a safer food supply.
Some of these advances will be small changes and some will require buy-in on a larger scale, whether mandated by the government overseeing our food safety or voluntarily addressed by growers, processors and producers before the food gets to consumers.
No matter how they are achieved, they will be an improvement.
1. Add salmonella to the adulterant list
Currently, there are legal standards that our food supply must meet to be considered safe. An adulterant is considered some substance that has been added to or removed from our food for a specific purpose which results in a lower quality food. These changes result in a product that is considered unsafe for human consumption.
Biological or chemical contamination during growth, storage, processing, transport or distribution is considered adulteration and adulterants are the substances that cause it to be harmed. Up until now, salmonella was not included on the adulterant list, which means processors can not be held responsible for its presence in their food products.
2. Test irrigation water routinely for E coli
Lately, produce has been found to be contaminated by E. coli strains, causing multi-state outbreaks responsible for many illnesses and even death.
It has been found that water used for irrigation was the source of the E. coli including that from nearby cattle feed lots. The water was not tested routinely by growers or inspectors so that this potentially deadly outbreak could be avoided.
This type of contamination is preventable.
3. Install buffers between animal feedlots and produce fields
In addition to testing the water, we should also be adding barriers or buffers between our fields and potentially contaminated water from a feedlot.
This seems like too much of a no-brainer not to be happening already.
4. Add blockchain system for traceability including labeling for better tracking
Blockchain is a technology solution that can be used to compile data about growers, location, distribution chains, and other information that can be quickly used to track problems in the food supply.
Using this type of solution can trace back a pathogen to a grower and distributor source to prevent consumers from buying and eating contaminated food before an outbreak becomes multi-state and devastating.
Blockchain is available and can be put in place today, though broad implementation would understandably take time.
5. Regular cleaning and sanitization of equipment throughout the supply chain
Growers and processors should already be cleaning and sanitizing all equipment that comes in contact with our foods regardless of the frequency of inspections because it is the right thing to do for our health.
Unfortunately, some seem to be waiting for regulations to take the right action.
6. Vaccinate restaurant employees for Hepatitis (a highly contagious virus spread even before symptoms are present)
All food handlers should be free from contagions that could make us all sick.
If a vaccine can prevent the spread of pathogens without negatively impacting the health of an employee, it should be required just as TB testing is for healthcare workers.
7. Publishing retailer lists of those who sell a recalled food product so consumers can determine if they purchased a recalled item
The more information consumers can have about the foods they purchase, as quickly as possible to prevent contamination, the better.
Most of us use shopper cards for discounts which already track our every purchase, why not make use of this technology to alert us if we purchased a food that has been recalled and give us instructions on how to handle the contaminated food?
8. Adopt and enforce the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2010; halt the ongoing delays and industry pushbacks
It is time for government and industry to come together and follow regulations that are intended to protect our food supply. The rules are in place just not yet followed or enforced.
It is good business ethics and consumers deserve to have access to safe food especially when it is our power to achieve a safer food supply.
Detective Foodsafe will continue to remain alert to not only the next food recall and multi-state outbreak, but also the steps that can be taken to assure that our food supply remains safe and trustworthy.
Have a question for Detective Foodsafe? Contact her here and she will get on the case for food safety!