posted on Jun, 21 2008 @ 11:57 AM
Unfortunately, I haven't been following the story very closely, so I don't know exactly what's causing the contamination. All I know is that they
think they have it narrowed down to crops from Florida or Mexico.
As for HACCP implementation on the farm level, I'm not sure if it's required at on the farm level for produce at this time. I believe it is, in a
form, required for produces of food with a high risk of pathogen contamination such as fish or poultry. It's also required in many restaurants.
However, each stage of production has different procedures. For instance, in my plant, we had a USDA officer on site 24 hours a day to inspect
sanitation, take temps, swab the machinery for bacteria, make sure we were changing clothes when switching between raw and cooked products, etc. This
wouldn't really be feasible for a small family farm or your standard McDonald's franchise outlet.
So the coverage of precautionary procedures is different depending on risk and output. I do know that vegetables and produce are inspected upon
shipping, delivery, and importation. However, even with multiple testings for safety, it's not impossible for contamination to slip though. They do
not check each and every piece of food individually, but rather take a few samples from each batch. And there's no guarantee that the inspectors have
done a thorough job.
This is where the tracking comes into play. When a contamination is found, either before going to market or after an illness, the product is tracked
back to it's source. In the case of the Spinach, this works rather well. The farm which produced the Spinach was discovered, inspected, fined, and
written up. (They can shut you down permanently if you have recurring contaminations or are overly negligent) The tomatoes however, have proven a bit
trickier to track down. It's possible that the farm they were produced at didn't implement a tracking system on their produce (especially if they
were grown in Mexico), but regardless - at some stage in the process it was being tracked, because we know where and what states these tomatoes were
being delivered to and there were recalls issued. This state was one of the states which received the contaminated shipments, and for a while many
restaurants could not serve tomatoes because the had to dispose of or send back their current stocks.
HACCP isn't a perfect system, by far. But the increased attention it has brought to the quality and the safety of our food supplies is, IMO, the
largest reason why we hear so much about it these days. It's analogous to living in a tornado prone area all your life, but only ever actually seeing
one or two. Then an early warning system is implemented, and suddenly you're seeing a ton of tornado watches and warnings. It's not necessarily the
case that there are actually more tornadoes, but that you are better informed of the tornadoes and tornado conditions which occur outside of your