Food Engineering

Editor's Note: Drastic times call for a total rehaul of food safety systems

April 1, 2009
Food safety problems that surfaced only a few years ago were soon forgotten or ignored by those in the headlines today.

While historians usually recall the 1980s as the decade of greed and excess, I have been wondering lately how the first decade of the 21st Century will be remembered 30 years from now. Will it largely be remembered as the era of the first African American president or the greatest Ponzi scheme in American history? Perhaps it also will be recalled as a time when the US experienced the largest number of food recalls in memory or overwhelming despair and anger at Wall Street and the banking industry. In the last two examples, sadly it is the average American who is left holding the bag.

The last three issues cited above all have the same root problem: greed. Recent food safety issues involved greedy suppliers and questionable audit practices accompanied by less than zealous quality checks by some processors. Of course the actions of the minority should not place blame on the entire food processing industry. But this decade has seen far too many food recalls, and in some cases consumers paid the ultimate price.

Has the industry learned lessons from these incidents? I’d say yes, but only for the moment. Similar food safety problems that surfaced only a few years ago were soon forgotten or ignored by those in the headlines today.

Many were outraged by it in the 1980s, but greed soon reared its head again, this time to an even greater degree.

Historians often say, to see the future, look at the past. Without an immediate, complete and systematic retooling of our food safety standards, I am afraid we are doomed to repeat the past again and again.

Please note: Food Engineering’s 32nd Annual Plant Construction Survey is now underway and scheduled to be published in June. Please help us identify all food and beverage plant projects of $1 million or more completed in 2008. New, expansion or renovation projects should be included. For more information about participating, go to and click on “Plant Construction Survey Form.” Last year, Food Engineering editors uncovered 613 projects, proving the food and beverage industry continues to grow and prosper even in a slow economy.