Safety is a headline issue. People get sick and die from tainted foods. And we are already slowing dying from what we eat: poor quality produce and harmful additives and chemicals. The economic drivers of the food industry should not be at odds with the consumer. The consumer and the retailer can make better choices if we up the ante a bit in the areas of standards and technology. The bad behavior (bad ethics) of firms that want to 'cheat the customer' should be exposed to the public. And we need to find methods to provide earlier notification, before the public consumes their products.
In addition, we have issues with our pharmaceuticals, from counterfeits to efficacy. There are many efforts worldwide to address issues in the pharma supply chain as well as growing regulations in the EU, the so-called EU falsified medicine directive. (Here is the proposed regulation that is out for comment).
People ask us if there is a market in traceability technology and service. Yes, there is a small and growing one. Understanding the elements is critical.
There is an ROI for improving labeling and traceability. If saving life is not enough of an ROI, then think about how hard recalls are to manage - and how long it takes to recover. But standards, process and technology can work together to address these problems.
Right now it might be a bit hard to fathom, but if a better model is put in place (ChainLink is working on such a model) then the public and private sectors may be able to embrace further improvements in the current tracing 'etiquette.' If you want to get involved in our research, please let us know - now.
To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.
Opinions differ on what is right. But expect a lot more dialogue on all sides. Here are two sources of opinion:
Michael Pollan on "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual." Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, discusses the link between healthcare and diet, the dangers of processed foods, the power of the meat industry lobby, the "nutritional-industrial complex," the impact that industrial agriculture has on global warming, and his sixty-four rules for eating.
Julie Murphree's Fresh Air site and the recent article Animal Agriculture and Responsible Antibiotic Use, February 10, 2010 by Alyn M. McClure, DVM with Herd Health Management, LP
See more on these topics on our Parallax View home page.