Reconsidering Recalls

Food recalls are the worst. First, they only occur when food-borne illnesses are causing sickness and sometimes death. Second, the mechanism of recalling vast amounts of food means millions of pounds of perfectly good food won’t be eaten.

Stephen Jannise of Distribution Software Advice recently wrote an interesting post dissecting this summer’s egg recall and pondering ways to avoid another such disaster. The post even included this handy, handsome infographic explaining exactly what happened:

Not surprisingly for someone writing for Software Advice, the post focuses on a potential technology-based solution. Essentially, the idea is whether or not food companies should install tracking software to be able to trace each box it ships.

While this would be expensive up-front, it would hopefully avoid unnecessary losses later. Once the outbreak’s origin is identified, this new tracking technology would hopefully prevent the ‘widely cast net’ recall method. What do you think–would this tracking be worth the trouble? And should the FDA require or help fund the technology??

One thought: I’ve seen eggs with the expiration date printed right on their shell. How much harder would it be to have the tracking number stamped on? Given the vagueness of “use-by” dates, that tracking info would probably be more useful.

Of course, free ranging hens would eliminate most all contamination concerns, as they’d be eating “food,” not “feed.” But we’re not likely to make a complete return to that system.

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