Early detection systems for food safety problems are actually helping federal health officials identify hazards in America’s food supply.
More than 100 reports were filed with the Food and Drug Administration alerting the agency about potential food safety problems using a Reportable Food Registry set up last September.
Previously, citizens concerned about food-borne illnesses had to be reported by phone to a state consumer complaint coordinator at the FDA, but this easier and faster new online system also allows officials to create a database that’s simpler to search and review to identify food safety trends, the agency says.
Among those, massive recalls of products containing hydrolyzed vegetable protein were prompted by industry reports using the registry. There were 177 separate recalls related to the salmonella-tainted HVP.
The reporting system also made it easy to track trends among recalls and food safety concerns. The FDA found that salmonella concerns made up 37% of reports, undeclared allergens or intolerances made up 35% and concerns about contamination by Listeria monocytogenes accounted for 13% of the reports.
About 14 reports were related to animal feed or pet food, 12 were about seafood, 11 concerned spices and seasonings and 10 reports were about dairy products, the FDA reports.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed a smart phone application that can alert consumers of food and other product recalls quickly. The alerts include those from both the USDA and the FDA, the USDA says.
"Alerting consumers quickly to food and product recall information through this technology can prevent untold illness and save lives," said Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary, in a prepared statement.
Interestingly, the app has only been release for Android phones, though Blackberry and iPhone versions are soon to follow, the USDA says.