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Traceability Dis-Incentives

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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Montgomery, Al

USDA notes that "the complexity of production and distribution channels for ground beef tends to make the determination of individual animal contributions to any given pound of product a difficult process." (20) This shouldn't be the case.

Product origin labeling provides accountability, which facilitates precaution throughout the food chain -- from rancher to grocer. The attached IBP memorandum confirms that companies divert risky product from items that will bear their brand name. Product that doesn't meet company set standards or supplier contract standards can be diverted to other buyers who won't place a brand name or other origination information on the product. Clearly, the current practice of allowing unlabeled meat on the market does nothing to instill one of the main objectives of HACCP regulation: placing the responsibility of food safety on the industry. Without accountability, the industry can easily evade responsibility for food products served to millions of Americans.

Origin labeling pinpoints where problems arise so that foodborne illness incidents can be better contained and fewer people will suffer. It will save money spent searching for the source of outbreaks by providing needed information up front. And it would help the industry by implicating the culprit rather than an entire class of products.

This concept is not new. The 1997 Food Code urges retailers to observe similar labels on molluscan shellfish. The identification of the harvester, date of harvest, and location of harvest are required.(21)

USDA requires processing plant identification numbers on meat and poultry products, which facilitates trace back to that level of production. S.T.O.P. encourages FSIS to take the current identification requirement a little farther by requiring identification for the farm of origin, slaughter house, and subsequent processors on the consumer package. This would facilitate maintenance of trace back records through all members of the food production chain.

The ground beef responsible for the Jack in the Box outbreak that killed four children, hospitalized 195 people, and caused over 700 illnesses was never traced to the slaughter house. E. coli O157:H7 contaminated Hudson Foods ground beef patties were not traced to the slaughter house. There were at least ten possible sources of contaminated meat.(22) If the contamination cannot be traced, no one is held accountable and the free market fails consumers. The market forces that would reward those who follow good manufacturing processes and punish those that don't, do not come into play when consumers cannot determine the source of the products they purchase.

Foodborne illness isn't simply a ground beef problem. Whole cuts of beef, pork, or chicken can also cause illness that doesn't get traced to the source of contamination at the slaughter or ranch level.

Between 1982 and 1996, 139 outbreaks linked to ground beef were reported to CDC. For fourteen years, there were an average of approximately 10 ground beef outbreaks per year. Only one outbreak has ever been linked to the farm or ranch.(23) The chance that contaminated product would be linked to the farm or ranch is 1 in 901,000. (24) There are approximately 1,900 ground beef processing plants and 100,000 ground beef grinders at the retail level in the U.S. (25) Assuming that one outbreak is traced to each processing level each year, the chance that contaminated product would be linked to a specific ground beef processing plant is 1 in 1,900 and is 1 in 100,000 at the retail grinding level. The odds are stacked against consumers.

Without accountability, companies that sell tainted product have little incentive to invest in improving the safety of their products. Ranchers or farmers who aren't producing name brand products have little incentive to invest in products that reduce pathogenic contamination in live animals, such as PREEMPT. And unless there is an illness linked to the processor, slaughter house, ranch, or farm, violations of supplier contracts or food safety laws may never come to light. No one would know whether a farmer cut corners and lied about using PREEMPT or whether a processing plant lied to a supplier and used "downers" in a lot. Odwalla says it didn't know that an orchard violated its supplier contract until a contaminated juice lot killed one child and caused at least 70 illnesses.
Good Lord, www.scoringag.com had this Technology long ago and it's patented.USDA is like a maid in denial of a dead mouse behind the fridge that stinks.

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