It was not long ago that the grain-based foods industry may have been quite overconfident in the face of food recalls that plagued other food sectors. While concerned by the loss of consumer confidence in food safety and the deteriorating state of affairs at the Food and Drug Administration, the industry saw both its powerful heritage of focusing on sanitation and the benefits of a kill stage in baking as sound reasons it would avoid the fate of illness-causing products ranging from ground beef and branded peanut butter to spinach and serrano peppers.
More recent incidents, though, demonstrated that the risks of foodborne illness must definitely be seen as a threat to grain-based foods. Whether the adulteration of products labeled as vital wheat gluten, the contamination of industrial peanut butter or, most recently, raw cookie dough eaten by consumers, even with package warnings to bake before eating, the industry has been starkly reminded of its own unique challenges.
In addition to risks posed by products that are not subjected to the kill stage, like peanut butter spread between bread slices or crackers, grain-based foods must deal with the vulnerability in its use of a wider and more diverse number of ingredients than just about any other food category. As food safety problems worsened, the industry never shrugged off the issue as "someone else’s problem." Still, the recent incidents clarify the extraordinary stakes in ensuring needed changes are undertaken to shore up food safety.