I’ll never forget the speech Produce Marketing Association president Bryan Silbermann gave at Fresh Summit 2006 in San Diego.
Just weeks after an E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach, Silbermann asked attendees to remember those who died, and the speech ended with a photo of 2-year-old Kyle Allgood on the screens throughout the banquet hall.
I thought of that speech when someone sent me a link to a recent Bloomberg News series on food safety that revisits a number of outbreaks from produce and other foods.
No doubt many in the industry have read it, and have some issues with the conclusions drawn from the reporting. Rightfully so, given the description leading off the stories: “For-profit companies have quietly taken over much of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s role in making sure what Americans eat is safe. They’ve failed to stop illness and deaths.”
Third-party audits are certainly one of the layers of food safety checks that responsible companies take, but there’s nothing sinister going on, quietly or not.
In fact, one of the most vocal complaints from the industry is that Congress is not giving the FDA what it needs to truly fund the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The series does serve as a reminder that despite how far the industry has come in recent years (with in-house testing programs and numerous research projects through the Center for Produce Safety), ongoing recalls and outbreaks tell a different story to consumers.
Mistakes have been made, some leading to hospitalization and deaths. That’s something I believe all growers and shippers reflect on, and hopefully cause them to take stock in food safety protocols at their own operations.
It’s a sound business decision to enact these protocals, of course, but growers aren’t callous, despite media coverage that suggests otherwise.
They only have to look around the dinner table to see the real reason driving the need for food safety.
What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.