To better understand my piece on Rose Acre Farms, let me further clarify a few things. I am a sanitarian by training, I am not per se an expert in all aspects of poultry or egg production. I have a bias toward sanitation (the maintenance of healthful conditions) as a primary, or even the most
The food safety industry is diverse, encompassing everything from laboratories to auditors, trainers and consultants. The industry operators rely on such outsourced services for a variety of reasons, but having available expertise is key to the business relationships.
In 2011 the Food Modernization Act or FSMA was passed into federal legislation. FDA The US Food and Drug Administration in response has published 7 rules that are destined to have significant impact on the food industry:
Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are very hardy infectious bacteria and widely distributed in nature, and very difficult to control. Listeria monocytogenes previously known to veterinary science as a pathogen of sheep, first came to light as a major foodborne agent when the largest and most deadly outbreaks in US history occurred in queso fresco cheese manufactured in Los Angeles, California. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_foodborne_illness_outbreaks_by_death_toll
As the result of numerous national and international outbreaks of foodborne illness, food industries worldwide have come under increasing pressure to ensure that their products are safe, wholesome, and meet government standards. FDA and USDA have the primary authority for our food supply nationally, while individual states typically regulate local food operations through state and county departments of agriculture and health.
I had the opportunity to help develop the above report, and review the findings of FDA inspections over the last few years at the nation’s top air carrier caterers. The findings, as reported by ABC 20-20 are clearly indicative of lack of control over production environments, people and production processes, the very things food safety management systems are supposed to address.
The comments by industry are predictable. The "we didn’t do it" philosophy, "head in the sand" approach is apparent, in spite of spin doctor statements. When you get caught with these types of issues, the public is not going to listen to the rhetoric about how great your food safety programs are, quite the contrary. Not one of these spokespersons would admit that their company had a problem or offer solutions, its all about denial. We see this again and again, especially after outbreaks.
The heads of these companies apparently are so disconnected from reality that they feel they can boast about how great their food safety programs are, even in the face of 1,500 FDA violations and many instances of gross sanitation conditions. Again, this is the same mantra we hear after an outbreak in FDA regulated facilities.
I lay much of the blame at the feet of FDA. This agency has the authority to stop such conditions and they opt time and again to walk away from problems and not take the tough stand that as consumers we expect, except in the most egregious of cases.
All we have to do is look at the poor record on FDA in the pharmaceutical compounding business or at Sunland (peanuts), or in the myriad of other outbreaks where the agency had performed inspections. No one is accepting responsibility, we get the same pathetic answers from FDA as from industry.
Taking a tough stand by inspectors is personally costly, it means confrontation, its perilous to careers and even to ones personal safety. I know this only too well, so I am very grateful to have an opportunity to again stand some ground against the food industry representatives who want to claim all is well in the face of mounting sanitation and health code violations and deceive themselves and the public.
This type of public confrontation is what we need to dispel the false sense of security the food industry and FDA has created for itself.
I applaud ABC 20-20 and all the other media who go to bat for the nation’s consumers. This type of work is actually a preventive approach, as it pushes the issues in a way that compels both FDA and industry to respond, unlike third party audits and FDA inspections that occur behind closed doors.
I hope I have more opportunity to tell it like it is, and I hope the airline food industry is listening. I know they are hearing, but are they listening? Time will tell, but from the sound of their statements, I don’t think so.
Whilst I value the commentary of my friend and colleague, Doug Powell and agree almost 99% with his theory and thought, I have to question this aside at the conclusion of the story below.
Do we ask "who was the inspector" every time we have an outbreak in a regulated restaurant or meat plant? How is …
Its evident that the FDA regulated food industry does not want to pay user fees. With the political climate being what it is, FDA may not get sufficient funding to carry out its mandates.
If this is the way government and industry decides on what is best for the public health, then the consequences …
The controversy continues over the value of third party audits in food safety at the fresh produce level, as pointed out by Professor Doug Powell at Kansas State University in his BITES blog.
Media types looking for a sound bite on Listeria in cantaloupes are pulling their hair out tonight.
You couldn’t ask for a more complicated scenario. Advice like “wash your hands” or “cook your foods” or “don’t cross contaminate” is nearly worthless. Here are some troubling facts
- Psychrophilic, multiplication possible all the way to