Playing Chicken with Food Safety

Chicken Recall 2013

Photo courtesy

Food safety is something of a step-child of U.S. regulation.  The public obviously cares about it, but it lacks the kind of attention from advocacy groups that the environment gets.  The results have not been pretty.

Food safety is divided between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (for meats and poultry).  Keep in mind that USDA’s main mission is promoting the agriculture industry, so you have to wonder how zealous they are about regulation. The USDA maintains an inspector at every slaughterhouse and poultry processing plant. But the number of inspectors per billion pounds of meat has fallen by half.  Under Bush, FDA lost more than 400 inspectors, and food safety inspections dropped twenty percent below 1972 levels.

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 strengthened FDA’s enforcement powers and expanded its regulatory mandate.  But, in a common story for the Obama years, FDA’s implementation efforts got stalled by the White House regulatory overseers.  In the meantime, food safety regulation is on the GOP’s hit list. Somewhat surprisingly, considering its something the public cares about deeply, food safety doesn’t seem to have many friends in Washington.

As I said, the results have not been pretty.  As the NY Times reported last week, ”salmonella on chicken has officially sickened more than 300 people (the Centers for Disease Control says there are 25 illnesses for every one reported, so maybe 7,500) and hospitalized more than 40 percent of them, in part because antibiotics aren’t working.”  As of Friday, however, the government still hadn’t issued a recall.

dan farberThe government says that it needs to tie the contamination to particular production runs before it orders a recall.  In the meantime, you might want to know that the affected brands are Foster Farms, Eating Right, Kirkland Signature, O Organics, Open Nature, Ralphs, Safeway Farms and Simple Truth Organic.  On the other hand, Costco has done its own recall.

Dan Farber
The Berkeley Blog

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


  1. JoeWeinstein says

    No real surprise here. The Dem and Repug politicians that control the federal and other governments, insofar as they even ‘think’ about matters of health at all, equate your ‘health’ not to food safety – let alone actual nutrition or other aids to physical health – but to your fiscal health – i.e. insurance against medical treatment costs.

    These politicians’ prime interest in ‘food and drug regulation’ focuses on drug and other substance PROHIBITIONS. Their prime motive, when they can articulate one at all, is to protect you – whether or not you want or need to be protected – from allegedly bad (even if in fact usually good) results of you disregarding their authority and instead exercising liberty and freedom of choice. Especially if that exercise might aid your own physical health in an unauthorized manner.

    To that end, these politicians typically OPPOSE food and other product LABELING and other such measures which would support rather than oppose your informed and reasoned self-actuated actions.

    And from prohibition they exclude your GUNS, because after all your guns are meant not to hurt yourself but to enable you to act on what these politicians endorse and authorize as your natural instinct: namely to hurt OTHER folks.

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