Photo Courtesy of GS1 US
Consumers wonder why it takes government so long to identify what foods are causing illnesses and to get those foods out of the marketplace. When someone falls ill, time is of the essence. No one knows this more than the victims of foodborne illness and their families, who are committed to food safety reform so that the tragedy they faced doesn't strike others.
It's common sense. By tracing products back more quickly, we can limit the number of people who become ill. We can also learn what caused the contamination and put steps in place to keep it from happening again. And we can target our recalls and other containment efforts to limit disruption of the food supply and harm to the industry.
Unfortunately, our ability to trace many foods back to their origin is lacking--especially with foods such as fruits and vegetables that often have no labels. Even tracing foods with better identification faces roadblocks such as poor record-keeping along the farm-to-table chain. I've traveled around the country to learn about the diversity of operations and distribution systems and nowhere is the challenge more clear than with the vast variety of products for which FDA is responsible, from lettuce grown on a farm to cereal produced and packaged in a plant.