Today’s failed attempt at comprehensive food safety reform left consumer advocates deeply disappointed, but ready to resume the fight.

Many in the food safety community expected to have the votes to pass HR 2749, a bipartisan measure that unanimously passed out of committee in June, but the measure fell just short of the supermajority

 At 10:30 AM today, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, HHS Secretary Sebelius, and Vice-President Biden will issue “key finding,” according to an email from Nick Shapiro, Office of the Press Secretary, in The White House, that was sent to several media outlets. According to press release, entitled President’s Food Safety Working Group: Delivering Results, the Obama administration is going to implement “a new public health-focused approach to food safety based on three core principles: (1) prioritizing prevention; (2) strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and (3) improving response and recovery.” Although these principles are laudable, and anything would be an improvement over the Bush administration’s efforts to put industry profits above the public health, most of what is being announced today is recycled from Clinton years, and all are incremental steps that seek improvements around the edges rather than the much needed structural change to the U.S. food safety system.

What follows is a point-by-point commentary and critique of today’s announced policy changes and renewed initiatives. As I think you will see, there is not a lot radical going on here. (Please click on the Continue Reading link to read more.)Continue Reading Back to the Future: Obama Recycling Clinton-Era Food Safety Initiatives as New

A little over two weeks ago, IBM released the results of a survey that it had conducted among adult grocery shoppers in the ten largest cities in the United States (100 in each city). The survey was intended to gather opinions about food safety issues, and what it found is as disappointing as it is not surprising. For example, less than 20% of consumers trust food companies to develop and sell food products that are self and healthy. Moreover, 60% of consumers are concerned about the safety of the food that they purchase. And the cause of this significant drop in trust? The rise in food recalls linked to contaminated and unsafe food products. According to the survey results, 83% of the people surveyed were able to name a food product that had been recalled in the last years, with nearly half (46%) naming peanut butter as a recently recalled product.

The irony here is that the rise in contamination-related recalls can be explained, in large part, by the drive for greater profits through: the use of cheaper ingredients purchased from suppliers willing to cut-corners (see, e.g. Peanut Corporation of America and its customer Kelloggs); the failure to update and maintain manufacturing facilities to ensure the highest standards of safety (see, e.g., Cargill and its peanut butter plant); insufficient product testing and quality control (see, e.g. Dole baged Spinach); and over-reliance on the consumer to cook the product "properly" as a means of making it safe, when it should have been safe to begin with (see, e.g., Banquet pot pies and Topps-brand and American Chef’s Selection brand frozen ground beef patties).  But by putting profits above safety, food manufacturers are trading short term gains for long term losses.  If consumers lose trust in manufactured food products, they will stop buying them.  Look, for example, at peanut butter sales, which still  have not recovered, and may never do so.

To read the full press release discussing the survey results, please click on Continue Reading.Continue Reading Consumer Trust in Food Safety in the U.S. Plummets Because of Rise in Recalls

There are a few key elements to having a good 4th of July.  First, don’t shoot off your fireworks by hand.  Second, illegal fireworks are fun, but they’re illegal for a reason, so see #1 if you’re planning to light any M 1000’s.  Third, watch the Seattle fireworks from our offices, where you can simultaneously