Long road from farm to fork worsens food outbreaks


WASHINGTON (AP) — Outbreaks of listeria and other serious
illnesses linked to tainted food are becoming more common, partly
because much of what we eat takes a long and winding road from farm to
A cantaloupe grown on a Colorado field may make four or five
stops before it reaches the dinner table. There’s the packing house
where it’s cleaned and packaged, then the distributor. A processor may
cut or bag the fruit. The retail distribution center is where the melons
are sent out to various stores. Finally it’s stacked on display at the
grocery store.
Imported fruits and vegetables have an even longer journey.
Colorado cantaloupe crop that’s linked to 84 illnesses and as many as
17 deaths in 19 states has traveled so far and wide that producer Jensen
Farms doesn’t even know exactly where their fruit ended up.
company said last week that it can’t provide a list of retailers that
sold the tainted fruit because the melons were sold and resold. It named
the 28 states where the fruit was shipped, but people in other states
have reported getting sick.
"The food chain is very complex," says
Sherri McGarry, a senior adviser in the Food and Drug Administration’s
Office of Foods. "There are many steps, and the more steps there are the
harder it can be to link up each step to identify what the common
source" of an outbreak is.
Fewer and larger farms and companies dominate food production in the country.
Now, many in the produce industry have come together to try and improve the ability to quickly trace food
from field to plate.
is good business. Large recalls, such as spinach in 2006, peanuts in
2009 and eggs in 2010, tend to depress sales for an entire product
industry, even if only one company or grower was responsible for the
A food safety law passed by Congress last year gives the
FDA new power to improve tracing food through the system. Food safety
advocates say the law will help make the food network safer by focusing
on making every step in the chain safer and making it easier to find the
source of outbreaks.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

No posts to display