Correcting Mistakes Might Feed the World

Earlier this year, the Food Laboratory Alliance released the infographic, Behaving Falsely: When Food Lab Tests Go Bad, to demonstrate the impact that incorrect laboratory test results have on public health and the economy. Data used then to estimate the amount of food produced annually in the United States was woefully underreported. According to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, 430 billion pounds of food was produced annually in the United States in 2010[i], far more than the estimated 150 million pounds projected on the Alliance’s infographic.

The updated infographic explains how a false negative laboratory test result may lead to possible shipment of a contaminated product, risks consumer injury or death, and potentially damages food brand reputation and trust. A false positive test result, when a contaminant-free product is incorrectly rejected, may lead to economic losses as well as loss of trust on the food commodity and brand.

Accounting for the significantly higher estimates of food production, the infographic demonstrates that with a false positive rate of 3.1%, a whopping 6.05 billion kg (13.3 billion pounds) of food must be recalled, disposed, diverted or reworked. This translates to a missed opportunity to provide a daily ration for 2.6 billion people – more than one-third of the world’s population!

Improving the quality of food laboratory testing continues as the primary mission of the Food Laboratory Alliance.

 

[i] Buzby, Jean C., Hodan F. Wells, and Jeffrey Hyman. The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States, EIB-121, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2014.

Leading Consumer Group Joins Food Laboratory Alliance

Leading Consumer Group Joins Food Laboratory Alliance

One of the leading national food safety consumer groups, STOP Foodborne Illness, has joined the Food Laboratory Alliance, a coalition of organizations devoted to the safety of the nation’s food supply and the quality of food laboratory testing.

“We are proud to join with the Food Laboratory Alliance in advocating for food laboratory testing standards,” explains STOP Foodborne Illness CEO, Deirdre Schlunegger. “Many members of the STOP Board are food laboratory professionals who understand the testing environment and are passionate about it.  The Alliance is a natural fit for STOP and our mission of preventing harm from foodborne pathogens.”

“We are pleased to welcome STOP Foodborne Illness to the Alliance,” said Robin Stombler, President of Auburn Health Strategies, LLC and Director of the Food Laboratory Alliance.  “The Alliance represents hundreds of food laboratories, hundreds of thousands of food testing products and services, and millions of consumers through the work of its members.  STOP Foodborne Illness adds an important voice in support of the quality of food laboratory testing.”

Controlling Salmonella in Market Hogs

The Food Safety and Inspection Service released the first edition of its FSIS Compliance Guideline on Controlling Salmonella in Market Hogs. The draft document represents the agency’s current views on the control of this pathogen in market hogs. 

Of particular interest to food laboratories, the guidance notes that establishments may verify the effectiveness of their process control procedures by process mapping and by conducting on-going verification activities, such as microbiological sampling and testing utilizing indicator organisms.  While it suggests that testing for indicator organisms may be easier to detect and quantify, the document also notes that a “prudent establishment” would adopt a testing program that includes both indicator organisms and testing for the pathogen Salmonella

FSIS seeks comments on the document by March 6, 2014.