Tracking Foodborne Illness

For decades, one of the major challenges in managing food recalls was the time it took for researchers to establish the source of the contamination.

In my time with Kroger, it was often frustrating when the company would receive a foodborne illness recall notice and begin the process of removing suspected product from store shelves and warehouses. As a result, recalls were often counched in tentative terms, like “suspected” or “possible,” because there wasn’t definitive proof of the actual cause.

That’s no longer the case. Advances in microbiology and data management now enable federal and state regulators to much more quickly uncover suspected food pathogens. Equally as important, these tools also help define the scope of recalls throughout the food chain, so that recall activity can be coordinated across the retail and wholesale supply network.

Here’s a link to an blog on Gale Prince’s SAGE Food Safety website that provides more details of this important and dramatic change in food recall management. Gale and I were friends and co-workers at The Kroger Co. for nearly two decades, and together we helped manage dozens of food recalls. We’ve learned a lot over the years, and — thankfully — the improvements we are witnessing today hold the promise of limiting costly recalls, and saving lives.

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