Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Food safety worries? Join the club

March 19, 2009

peanutcorpAre you worried about the rash of high-profile and often deadly tainted-food scandals involving everything from peanut butter and chili peppers to spinach and baby formula?

You are not alone.

“When I heard peanut products were being contaminated earlier this year, I immediately thought of my 7-year-old daughter, Sasha, who has peanut butter sandwiches for lunch probably three times a week,” U.S. President Barack Obama said recently, referring to a salmonella outbreak that has made 683 people in 46 states sick, killed as many as nine and forced the recall of more than 3,000 products. 

“No parent should have to worry that their child is going to get sick from their lunch,” said Obama, who is leading a charge to improve the U.S. food safety system. 

Parties ranging from the CEO of cereal maker Kellogg to Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of a House of Representatives Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the FDA, have joined the call for stricter oversight.

babyformula1China will enact a new food-safety law on June 1aimed at preventing another massive health threat like last year’s melamine-tainted milk formula that killed at least six toddlers and made almost 300,000 sick.

But in a chilling reminder of the troubles in an increasingly global food chain, China’s Ministry of Health said in a document: “At present, China’s food-security situation remains grim with high risks and contradictions.”

World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is on the food safety bandwagon, but cautions that it could be misused by anti-trade advocates.

“If we’re asking for more open trade and less protectionism on food, I think the safety issue is absolutely crucial. Countries will run away from trading if they believe you are going to export food to them that is not safe,” she told the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit, referring to health threats like melamine contamination and mad cow disease. 

On the other hand, she said, “some countries use the food safety issue artifically … as a barrier, if you will, from getting in imports from other countries.”


Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see