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Tracking Tainted Food a Near Impossibility in U.S.

Lee Hochberg reports on the difficulty in tracking the source of tainted foods and the complicated trail from production to sale.

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  • LEE HOCHBERG:

    Food contamination reports in the U.S. have been frequent …

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Now new questions about food safety and beef.

  • LEE HOCHBERG:

    … and tragic in the last couple of years.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The outbreak has killed at least eight and sickened another 500 people.

  • LEE HOCHBERG:

    Nine died and more than 700 were poisoned this winter when they ate salmonella-tainted peanut products. Almost 1,400 were sickened last year by tainted peppers. There were recalls for cookie dough, gravy sauces, cocoa mix. And that wasn't all that unusual. The CDC estimates 5,000 people in the U.S. die each year from food-borne illnesses.

    What aggravates the problem is how long it takes the food industry and FDA to trace the source of tainted food. It took several months to track peanut products to the Peanut Corporation of America processing plant in Georgia, three months to find the origin of salmonella in the peppers. Tracking food from stores and restaurants back through the food chain of distributors, packers, truckers, processors, and to the farm is fraught with roadblocks and confusion. It's chaos, says Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette.

  • REP. DIANA DEGETTE, D-Col.:

    We don't have any uniform system of record-keeping that both keeps track of — of the specific ingredients, and where they started and where they ended up. It's just catch as catch can. Different people might have records in different boxes. It's almost like a scavenger hunt to try to find all of these records.

  • LEE HOCHBERG:

    DeGette co-sponsored a bill to give the FDA, which regulates all food, except meat and poultry, more enforcement power and require food suppliers to keep more detailed records.

    Fruits and vegetables from California farms are sorted through the night at Cooks Produce, a food distributor at San Francisco's produce market. Workers pack it for dawn delivery to groceries and restaurants.

  • MAN:

    Savoy spinach is here, folks. It's right here.

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