Erika Early

Week 11

November 29,2018

For the second time this year, federal health officials have warned Americans not to eat romaine lettuce at all and have asked stores to throw away all their supplies. The romaine lettuce was not contaminated it was because there was no good way of figuring out where the contaminated lettuce came from. When people started dying from E. coli infections last spring, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided the safest way was to  just to tell people to stop eating it. Last spring’s breakout came from Yuma Arizona. It made more than 200 more sick and was eventually blamed on contaminated canal water.While this fall was from central California. It takes days to even detect an outbreak, more days to ask people what they ate recently to try to come up with a food that all the sick people had in common and then sometimes weeks to find out a common source for that food. The FDA is now looking to Walmart; a huge retailer, to help solve the problem. The FDA has hired Walmart’s vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas, as deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. One of his specific areas of expertise is the development of blockchain technology for track and trace. Blockchain is a term for a way of keeping accurate records of transactions that is timestamped and difficult to change. It’s used in food distribution and would be a secure way to track food as it is harvested, processed, packaged, distributed and sold. Walmart itself is still trying to roll out the technology.The first step is getting all its food suppliers to buy into IBM’s computer technology. The company doesn’t expect its suppliers to do this before next year as some still use paper records. The company is trying to negotiate a sliding scale for the farms and distributors that provide fresh produce, so that they pay according to their size .If it works, products would be labeled and scanned through  the journey from farm to processor to packaging and delivery, so that when there was an outbreak of foodborne illness, health officials would be saved days or even weeks of traceback work, and could get more specific warnings out to consumers faster. This will save stores and distributors from the huge losses they often suffer when they have to pull a product off the shelves wholesale. The FDA worked out an agreement for producers to start labeling romaine lettuce.Some people’s take on the situation is that the Trump Administration is willing to put American’s health at risk to appease big food companies. The delay could cost Americans their lives. Contaminated food is a very common problem. The CDC estimates that germs in food make 48 million Americans sick every year that being one out of six people. About 128,000 are made sick enough to be hospitalized, and 3,000 die. The germs to blame include listeria, salmonella, E. coli and cyclospora.