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The Washington Post has a story about the salmonella outbreak that won’t seem reassuring to consumers concerned about food safety issues.

An excerpt:

“More than six weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about a salmonella outbreak in New Mexico and Texas connected to raw tomatoes. Since then, the agency has expanded the warning nationwide and added jalapeño and serrano peppers. More than 1,100 people have fallen ill since April, but not a single contaminated tomato or pepper has been found.

“Investigators said the complexity of the produce distribution system has been their biggest impediment, and some produce industry leaders agree that tracing fruits and vegetables could be easier. Though the technology to do so already exists in the form of bar codes that appear on nearly everything we buy, it could take as long as five years before the entire food industry applies it to food safety.”

Another excerpt:

“The technology to track a chili pepper or tomato from packing shed to plate has been around for some time, as anyone who has sent or received a package knows. Both sender and recipient can go online, see the major stops in the package's journey and, after it arrives, the precise time it reached its destination. The nation's largest food distributors and manufacturers use similar technology to keep tabs on their inventories. But not all businesses can afford such sophisticated systems.”

KC's View:
The entire story is worth reading because it does an excellent job of framing the issue and establishing the context within which the food safety questions must be resolved.

Here’s the bottom line, from my perspective. A food industry that doesn’t move quickly, efficiently and productively in developing state-of-the-art and transparent traceability systems is no better off than an American auto industry that kept making and marketing Hummers and giant SUVs in a world where fuel was becoming more expensive and less plentiful.