Jeff Koeze's Blog Good Food, Good Business, and the Good Food Business

4Oct/090

Getting Food Safety Wrong in the NYTimes

There is a long front page article in today's New York Times on the safety, or lack thereof, in hamburger production.  The underlying message of the article is that if only industry would agree to a more vigorous testing regime hamburger would be safe.

The article draws a clear picture of a global, industrial, beef supply chain driven by relentless cost-cutting.  For reasons both technical and practical, no testing regime will ever deliver meaningful improvements in safety in this structure.  Attempting to test your way to food safety under these conditions is the proverbial band-aid on a gunshot wound.

Moreover, the article completely ignores the food safety implications of a beef supply chain beginning with animals raised in confined feedlot operations.   Ironically, by focusing on testing and regulation rather than the root causes of the E. coli problems, this article, on the surface hostile to large agribusiness, plays into the idea that we are a few regulatory tweaks away from improving food safety, rather than considering more profound and difficult questions of reforming the entire farm-to-table system.

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