The year 2018 has seen more than its fair share of food recalls. You can’t go more than a couple days without hearing about a major recall of ground beef or a recall of ready-to-eat food from Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and other retailers. The most talked-about event is the latest romaine lettuce announcement, which saw the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone in the U.S. throw away all romaine due to E. coli.
Is food less safe than it used to be? Here’s what we’ve heard.
Reassuring words from the FDA
The food recalls of 2018 correspond to 22 different outbreaks of food poisoning, at least so far. It’s more outbreaks than any other year from the past decade, but it doesn’t mean food is less safe, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“What’s happening is that we have better technology than ever before,” says FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. He adds that technology is more readily able to link outbreaks of foodborne illness back to the source. The CDC can test blood samples from infected patients and link the human illness back to actual food sources, like ground beef, chicken or romaine lettuce.
Knowing what kind of food is responsible makes it possible to issue a recall for the contaminated product.
Why food is safer than ever
The FDA has lots of tools to keep an eye on food, now more than ever before. The enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011 led to a “paradigm shift”—where the FDA is focused on preventing outbreaks, as opposed to just reacting to them.
Where improvement may be needed
The FDA is still working on the ability to track outbreaks to a single grower. That explains why the pre-Thanksgiving romaine recall was issued nationwide before ultimately being limited only to California. The FDA is working with growers on better tracking and labeling, and retailers like Walmart are on board, too.
In the mean time, the best thing consumers can do is stay informed about recalls. It never hurts to look out for food safety mistakes at home, either!