Is USDA moving too slow in salmonella probe?

First the company plays the Pinto defense – we meet all government standards – and now the local paper lashes out at government incompetence.

What’s missing is any concern for people sickened by salmonella-in-beef sold by Hannaford and the responsibility any retailer has to provide safe food.

Earlier this week, Department of Agriculture investigators said they were hampered by lousy records and procedures at retailer Hannaford.

The Portland Press Herald says today the regulatory response to the outbreak, “looks like a horse and buggy operation. … federal authorities have not been able to shed much light on what happened before the meat was sold, with one official blaming the supermarket chain’s practice of mixing beef from different sources when it grinds it into hamburger.”

The editorial rightly says that if the mixing practice is risky, it should be prevented everywhere and that outbreaks require “thorough and transparent investigations and timely communication with the public.” But it also states that because meat is likely to cross state lines multiple times before it is put on a dinner table, regulating it is a federal responsibility.

Regulating is one aspect of responsibility. But the ultimate responsibility for safe food lies with producers and retailers and whoever is making the profit from the sale of food.

I look forward to more transparent and public communications from Hannaford.

Seek and ye shall find; FDA finds problems at egg farms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is finding problems at egg farms beyond the Iowa operations linked to last summer’s salmonella outbreak. The agency inspected 35 farms from September to December and released a report today on its findings.

Those 35 farms, located in Ohio, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Washington, were picked for inspection because they had been associated with pervious outbreaks or had a history of poor compliance. Nine separate companies operate the 35 farms. The names were not released.

Twelve of the farms needed to take action to fix problems. Eleven others did not. Evaluations of the remaining 12 farms are still pending, mostly in Washington state.

Most of the problems cited by the agency involve inadequate record keeping.

Farms are required to document compliance a variety of issues, including rodent monitoring and compliance with biosecurity measures.