Food Recall and Safety: Is It Time to Localize Our Food?

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Recalling food and drinks over safety concerns has become near-daily news, and on an average day, Americans see one or more lots of food recalled in various states by the FDA or by the manufacturer.

The ongoing issue with food safety concerns seems to suggest the need for some major change in the way food is distributed and sold. 

Food recalls have been around for years and sadly so since every recall adds to the concern about the health and safety of consumers. Some of these recalls are more limited and affect one or a few lots in one or a few areas; others are nationwide.

Trader Joe’s, for example, recalled certain lots of its Snickerdoodle cookies this month across the country due to the possible presence of hard plastic pieces in them. Around the same time, the FDA recalled two lots of Natierra’s freeze-dried blueberries across the country due to potentially high levels of lead.

Physical and chemical contamination of food is not the only issue concerning public health; contamination with dangerous disease-causing germs also leads to the frequent recalling of popular food distributed nationwide by major companies.

A couple of months ago, more than 50 popular Jif Peanut butter products were recalled after they were linked to a salmonella outbreak across 12 states. Besides general health concerns, sometimes special health issues are related to certain food items. For example, multiple brands of honey were recalled nationwide this month when the presence of undisclosed erectile dysfunction drugs was detected in them.

Food Safety News has its own category for food recalls and readers can see a recall news story every second day, or at least a few times a week. These recalls not only imply unending concerns for consumer health and safety but also the waste of large quantities of food, especially when one or more brands are recalled in multiple states or across the country. Can this be prevented?

The mass production and preservation of food by big nationwide manufacturers apparently make the core of this problem. Large numbers of items from the same lot distributed nationwide are canceled if testing at one or a couple of locations finds any health issue with the item. Contamination from any of the machinery involved in the production and/or chain of distribution can lead to suspicion of the entire lot, and can waste tons of food distributed to consumers. 

In 2019, Michigan State University published an article Seven benefits of local food by Julia Darnton, Rita Klavinski.  The authors pointed out that local food ensures a safer food supply. They wrote:

Food grown in distant locations has the potential for food safety issues in harvesting, washing, shipping, and distribution. 

Local food on the contrary has fewer chances of contamination with some pathogen or chemical contaminant on a large scale. And it’s easier to trace the food to its source in case of contamination.

Given the growing distrust in big government and big pharma, and for good reasons, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that building local food systems is now frequently advocated on many alternative and free-speech social media channels.

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