Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How Safe Is Our Food, Really?

Each year, one in six Americans gets sick because of contaminated food.

And according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Protection (CDC), outbreaks may be on the rise. During a five-year period from 2005 to 2010, 39 outbreaks made more than 2,300 people ill, but nearly half, or 17, took place during 2009-20120.

But do we really need to worry about our spinach? Be scared of peanuts? Sure, today's far-flung food supply network comes with new risks. But food safety doesn't have to be a tradeoff for bountiful food.

Our food supply network, complex as it is, can be accountable. We could track food from farm to table. We could pinpoint right away where a bad batch of food came from instead of resorting to massive recalls. We could even keep contaminated food from hitting shelves in the first place.

Hard to imagine, partly because for so long skeptics have argued that food tracking systems are too complex, too expensive and too unworkable on a broad scale.

But that's just not true any longer. Technology can make our food safer and it's here now. We can combine easy-to-use common technologies -- such as barcodes, cloud computing, smartphones, and analytics -- at minimal costs. We can also create tracking systems that are affordable and work for everyone from Mom and Pop farms to multinational company food testers.

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