The current outbreak of salmonella poisoning in the peanut and peanut butter industry is an example of lax government oversight that will only get worse. Remember the milk crisis in China? The tainted jalapeno pepper/salsa problem last year? Bad farmed salmon from South America? Mad cow disease in American cattle?
The NY Times today did an excellent piece on the Peter Pan peanut butter salmonella mess, which started with a family-owned processing plant in Blakely, GA. Workers weren’t paid good wages, temps were used, roofs leaked, rodent schmoo on the floor and government safety inspectors who were over-stretched. A recipe for disaster.
This type of thing, though certainly not rampant, is happening all over. As company profits dry up and workers let go — and as the government eases up oversight due to lack of funds – food safety problem will multiply.
And can’t you just see a bunch of marketers stepping into the breach, segmenting the market with premium food brands that tout higher levels of quality control under the guise of “pure-natural,” or “healthiest choice” or some such — by inference, positioning regular store brands as for the other class of shopper. Whole Foods, to a degree, is already catering to these up-market consumers.
The government needs to step up here and pump some serious stimulus money into cleaning up the food industry. Let’s put the search for the car czar on hold and clean up a food plant or two first. Food safety before car bail-out.