First they came for the turkey, then for the Hy-vee meat products, Duncan Hines cake mix, ground beef, Ritz Crackers, Goldfish crackers, McDonald’s salads, Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Swiss rolls, two different medications, and of course the on-again-off-again concerns about romaine lettuce.
According to People, the Center for Disease Control has investigated 22 outbreaks in 2018 so far, which is the highest number of investigations in the past 12 years. Annual product recalls by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates meat producers, rose 83.4% from 2012 through 2017. Meanwhile, those issued by the FDA, which regulates everything else, jumped by 92.7%, according to CNBC.
Now the Food and Drug Administration is trying to give consumers a reason for all the recalls, without mentioning rule changes by the Trump administration–or climate change, of course. The culprit? Technology!
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNN that the numbers of investigations will grow as the FDA improves its methods of finding outbreaks under the auspices of the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act. “I think food is more safe now than it’s ever been. We have much more resources and additional tools to do effective surveillance,” he said. The FDA is also better at warning the public about outbreaks, regularly updating its website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Currently, the CDC has the ability to test samples from infected patients and use genetic testing to link the pathogens to specific food sources. However, as Gottlieb explained, the technology does not yet exist to track and trace an outbreak to a single distributer or grower–making it difficult to find the specific cause of the recent romaine lettuce and turkey recalls. Get on it, inventors!
We remain committed to identifying ways to decrease the incidence and impact of foodborne illness outbreaks, and #FDA will continue to provide updates on our investigation and changes to our advice on romaine lettuce as more information becomes available.
— Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (@SGottliebFDA) November 27, 2018