Investigators successfully traced the source for only 5 of the 40 products, the report stated. Three of the traced products were egg cartons whose supply chain included only a farm and a retailer. For a tomato, a bag of ice, a bottle of fruit juice and a bottle of water, investigators were not able to even guess the product’s supply chain. For 31 other products, investigators were able to identify only the likely suppliers.
The FDA famously has no power to recall food. A million pounds of beef could be tainted with a poison guaranteed to kill everybody who ate it, and there’s not a damned thing that anybody could do about it. As we’ve seen with spinach, tomatoes, and peanut butter recently, it’s this system is a terribly dangerous one. The Peanut Corporation of America makes peanut paste and sells it to hundreds of manufacturers, who turn it into thousands of products and put it on the shelves. Without any method of connecting those products to the original peanut paste, we’ve seen 691 people get sick and nine die, and the recalls are still being announced over two months after the Peanut Corporation was fingered as the culprit.
If my neighbor wants to sell me some eggs, cheese, or side of beef, that’s between me and my neighbor, and I don’t care for further regulation there. But it’s time that the industrial food system became properly regulated, by giving the FDA the power to order recalls, requiring that manufacturers maintain records of sourcing and distribution, and providing the funding necessary to enforce those requirements. You put food in you. It’s what keeps you alive, or kills you. This is important. We can take the time to get this right now, or we can wait for something to kill hundreds of people and then hastily enact poorly thought-out regulation. I prefer the former, but I suspect that the latter is how it will play out.