NGO Publishes Report on Food Safety
The United State Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) published “How Safe is Our Food? Recent trends and case studies, and what they mean for our health”, a review and commentary of the food safety system in the United States. PIRG reviewed trends in food safety, with an emphasis on recalls, as well as case studies of seven recent recalls.
Of note, PIRG points to the increased number of recalls as evidence that the food safety requirements are not sufficiently stringent. PIRG acknowledges that the increase in recalls may be due to improved surveillance and testing, but that this “demonstrate[s] that there were previously unidentified problems in the food supply. If the levels of contamination and outbreak being identified were always present and just now being identified, this shows that the safety problems in the food system are still in need of work.” PIRG also points to large operation farms, the presence of feed lots near vegetable farms, and insufficient regulations and regulatory oversight. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb tweeted that increased recalls have likely been due to new tools to detect pathogens and that increased complexity of food chains means a single tainted ingredient may result in the recall of many products.
CDC, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from January 4, published a case study of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS)used to identify the source of Salmonella in backyard poultry. The Daily Intake Blog has published many posts about the increased use of WGS, and CDC’s recently published case study is the most recent example of WGS’s use in identifying pathogen sources and the tension between increased recalls/violative product and a safer food supply.