Featured in Food Safety News: What’s Wrong With the Food System?

This article appeared as an opinion piece on Food Safety News, December 14 2015.

According to the government of Canada, one in eight Canadians will come down with a case of foodborne illness this year. How is it possible that so many Canadians fall victim to a preventable condition? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the situation is worse in the United States, with one in six Americans suffering the same fate every year. Obviously something is badly broken in our food supply chain.

Consumers may often sicken themselves, but these instances rarely result in fatalities. The same can’t be said for producers and processors ‐ 22 people died in 2008 after eating tainted cold cuts in Canada, 50 people in 16 countries died in 2011 after eating organic sprouts from a German farm, and 33 from contaminated cantaloupes in the U.S. that same year ‐ to point out just a few. So what’s wrong with the system?

Consumers may often sicken themselves, but these instances rarely result in fatalities. The same can’t be said for producers and processors — 22 people died in 2008 after eating tainted cold cuts in Canada, 50 people in 16 countries died in 2011 after eating organic sprouts from a German farm, and 33 from contaminated cantaloupes in the U.S. that same year — to point out just a few. So what’s wrong with the system?

Archaic Processes

Many operators have no food safety training and don’t even know what hazards they face, much less how to control them. I’ve seen a chocolate factory with numerous violations. They had problems with their machinery and rerouted the processor flow using cardboard and duct tape, both of which should not be allowed in a production facility. They were stirring the vat of chocolate with an old hockey stick that was also wrapped with duct tape. Wooden utensils or duct tape are not supposed to have direct contact with food. And there was a guy sitting there eating his sandwich over the open production line of chocolate running by, which is a huge risk for cross-contamination from things like sesame seeds that could fall off the sandwich and into the product.

Keep reading at Food Safety News or check out another version of this article on our blog.

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