It seems that we take one step forward and six backwards when we talk about food safety. Yes, the Food Safety Modernization Act, great name, became law at the beginning of the year, but are we believers? Is our food supply really being inspected or are we the ad hoc inspectors when we become ill from something we ate? Certainly food handling plays a role in many foodborne illnesses, but those numbers are far smaller than those that result from products never having been properly inspected.
Maybe an early positive to the Act is the formation of the Sprouts Safety Alliance (SSA). You do not need to jigger your memory buttons too much to recall how frequently sprouts have been linked to major food outbreaks. When we can feel safe ordering sprouts again or purchasing them, we’ll know that this government-sponsored effort helped put a food back at the salad bar and on the sandwich.
What is a consumer to do? At this time of the year, it’s prudent to consider a home-grown vegetable garden or participation in a local CSA. Even trips to small farmers markets may yield a more trusted crop than that coming from big suppliers who admit their products have not been inspected for quite some time.
The question remains, no matter how many times we blog it or read about it, is our food safe? Some of it. Could it be safer? Yes. In the time I wrote, edited, and sent this blog out, food safety announcements came in. This is just one example! Everyone knows there’s a problem.
Agency cutbacks are necessary to trim the budget, but to take the fat out of an inspection program that keeps us all safe makes little sense. Time to hire. Time to inspect.