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EDITORIAL: Food Safety: Improve Screening, Tracking Process

July 21, 2008

By El Paso Times, Texas

Jul. 21–Federal officials have declared that all kinds of tomatoes are officially OK to eat once again, following the well-known salmonella scare.

But lingering questions about the safety of the American food supply are leaving a bad taste in many people’s mouths.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that most consumers want a way set up to trace produce, a desire generated by the salmonella outbreak that was first linked to tomatoes and now to hot peppers.

A whopping 86 percent of poll-takers said there should be a way to label produce so that it can be traced from the farm through processors, packers, shipper and sales outlets.

It only makes sense.

Look at the salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 1,200 people in 42 states. No one is really sure what caused the outbreak.

And we’ve already seen the biggest beef recall in history.

The government has long been condemned for a dangerously inadequate food inspection system. The salmonella scare has done nothing to help the feds’ image, and indeed speaks loudly for a radically modernized and improved food inspection system.

Outbreaks of food-borne disease don’t affect only the people who get sick.

There’s also a chain-reaction economic effect as, suddenly, the consumption of a product goes down, farmers can’t sell all their crop, processors and shippers have less to work with, and retailers lose potential sales.

Food inspection and tracking must be improved.

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Copyright (c) 2008, El Paso Times, Texas

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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