U.S. food tracing system is moldy

Woman grocery shopping

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There actually is such a thing as a food emergency. And it's a lot more serious than not having anything in the house for dinner. Officially, it's when the government has to figure out which ingredient in a food is making people sick. To take a recent example: contaminated peanuts. Companies do have to keep records about the ingredients they use. But according to a report today, they're not keeping enough records. Marketplace's Janet Babin has more now from North Carolina Public Radio.


JANET BABIN: It can be a long road from the field to your fork. In the report, the government tried to track all the stops made by 40 foods. Daniel Levinson is the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Daniel Levinson: Only 5 of the 40 products we purchased could actually be traced through each stage of the food-supply chain.

A pretty disturbing discovery. Especially because it's apparently not that hard to keep track of all the ingredients going into food. Manufacturer Mike Schall is with Monterey Gourmet Foods.

Mike Schall: It's record keeping, it's observation, which is mandated by FDA.

Inspector General Levinson wants Congress to write tougher record-keeping laws. That could raise costs for food companies. But Sarah Klein with Center for Science in the Public Interest says not necessarily.

Sarah Klein: It may cost businesses a little more money at the front end, but it will certainly save them the kind of money that they've been losing from these recalls.

Kellogg recently admitted that the peanut recall cost it more than $60 million.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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