Does Food Tracing Work?

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In 2005, the FDA required certain categories of manufacturers to keep records about the source, transporters, and recipients of their products. Recently, the Inspector General of the FDA's parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, conducted an exercise to see whether traceability was working.  Inspectors bought four samples of ten different food products (e.g., bottled water, oatmeal, tomatoes) at retail stores and attempted to track their supply chains. Oops. It only could trace five. For another 31, it could make educated guesses. But nearly 60% of food facilities handling these products could not complete the tracing and 25% did not know they were supposed to.

The FDA, says the Inspector General, needs statutory authority to require producers to know their supply chains and everybody involved needs some education about how to do this. No wonder we are still getting daily recallsof products containing peanut better.  Statutory authority means Congress. I wish Congress would get busy on this!

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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