Food safety, one pistachio at a time

Pistachio growers probably won’t agree, but the New York Times says in an editorial this morning that  the recent blanket warning from the Food and Drug Administration about salmonella in pistachios was one of the most encouraging events in years and sent a powerful signal to those in the food business that the F.D.A. planned to focus more urgently on the safety of consumers.

The editorial concludes that even though the Obama F.D.A. appears to be doing a better job, Congress needs to beef up the agency’s staff and broaden its recall authority. Longer term, Congress and the White House need to keep promises to take a deeper look at food safety. It is time to think seriously about establishing one federal agency to coordinate and enforce food-safety regulations — and give consumers the protections they need and deserve.

Times food safety editorial is nutty

An editorial in Tuesday’s N.Y. Times about the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America and its Salmonella shitfest is long on outrage but short on imagination.

“While most successful food producers are far more diligent — big name-brand peanut butter is considered safe, for example — American consumers have faced far too many food-supply emergencies in the last few years.”

Is ConAgra a big food company? Wasn’t Peter Pan peanut butter the source of a huge Samonella outbreak in 2007?

“Congress needs to find more money for inspectors, especially at the Food and Drug Administration.”

Maybe, but lots of federal and state inspectors, along with the best and brightest the Ponzi scheme of food safety auditing had to offer all seemed to miss the problems at PCA. If someone wants to break the law and ship Salmonella-contaminated product, it’s going to happen.

“President Obama promised during the campaign to create a government that does a better job of protecting the American consumer. The nation’s vulnerable food supply is a healthy place to start.”

Government has a role. But nowhere did the Times editorial mention the power of consumer choice that would be unleashed if food producers would truthfully market their microbial food safety programs, coupled with behavioral-based food safety systems that foster food safety culture from farm-to-fork. The best producers and processors will go far beyond the lowest common denominator of government and should be rewarded in the marketplace.