A food safety expose published last week by Bloomberg News begins with a recounting of the Listeria outbreak last year but quickly turns to a subject deeply disturbing to baking. The story recounts food-borne illness outbreaks in recent years, including the 2011 Listeria outbreak traced to a cantaloupe farm, killing 33.
The article raises questions about the adequacy of food safety oversight in the United States. Such questions have been raised by the food industry itself, which has lobbied in recent years for increased funding for the Food and Drug Administration. The thrust of the article, titled, “Food sickens millions as industry-paid inspectors find it safe,” is that third-party inspectors do an inadequate job of ensuring food safety.
Of concern to baking is a passage in the article dealing with AIB International Inc., noting the group’s board of trustees has included representatives of the nation’s largest baking companies. The article quotes David Kessler, the inflammatory former F.D.A. commissioner, accusing the board of a conflict of interest since bakeries are inspected by the AIB. Without dismissing the importance of any organization reviewing its governance guidelines from time to time, the choice of baking as a target in the article seems badly misplaced.
Baking has a safety track record that is the envy of the rest of the food sector. While the industry has a major stake in broader questions of food safety and is committed itself to enhancing sanitation and minimizing the risk of food borne illness, baking remains and will continue a model of what is right, not what is wrong, with the U.S. food supply.