Saturday, January 16, 2010

Serious questions remain about food safety

We previously reported on serious questions about the safety of beef produced by a major US supplier that had previously been praised by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture. Several new reports shed more light on the the serious issue of contamination in our (and our pets') food supply.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that cookie dough produced by Nestle USA had tested positive for E. coli. The testing, which was of product that had not yet left the factory, was produced under new manufacturing techniques undertaken after the company's cookie dough was recalled last summer following another round E. coli contamination. The company shut down its plant for two weeks in order to reformulate its product to prevent such contamination from reoccurring. Nestle said that no contaminated product had been shipped to retailers, and that no recall was needed.

On Friday, the AP reported a salmonella outbreak in dog food produced by Merrick Pet Care. The FDA has advised consumers not to use the affected product, and warned that the salmonella could spread to humans if the product was handled and users did not adequately wash their hands.

Finally, Nurture, Inc. has recalled organic baby food produced by the company over fears that the food might have become spoiled. The Oregonian reports that the problem was caused by a problem in the manufacturing process that did not allow the containers to be properly sealed

Fortunately, some reform in the area of food safety may be forthcoming, as we previously wrote. In an article in The Atlantic Monthly, FDA senior advisor Michael Taylor stated his belief that the nation is at a historic tipping point regarding food safety, and that the coming decade would see much-needed reforms. Illuminating the need for such reform was last year's massive salmonella outbreak from contaminated peanut butter, and this week Minnesota victims and family members joined together in writing to urge US senators and representatives to take the sort of action Mr. Taylor believes is forthcoming.

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