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Does outsourcing food production compromise food safety?

Try searching for a culprit in the 90 brands caught up in the recent recall of canned chili, stew and other products, and you weave back to a single manufacturer. That also was the case in recalls of spinach, pet food and frozen meat.

The Associated Press reports that companies increasingly are paying others to make the foods we eat--or the ingredients in them--and then selling it under multiple brand names. And that has prompted a growing debate about food safety.

"If people cannot trace a product back to a supplier, the supplier has no incentives to keep their processes as clean and effective, in terms of food safety, as possible," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

But the food industry and regulators chalk up to coincidence the rash of recent major food safety recalls and the consolidation of food production "One reason we are seeing this is because it's becoming a common industry practice," said Dr. David Acheson of the FDA. Acheson said he knew of no evidence that outsourcing production is inherently less safe than traditional arrangements in which companies make what they sell.

But critics of the outsourcing of production warn that it creates increased vulnerability of the food supply. The manufacturer no longer is directly accountable to consumers, but to other companies, they say.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Sep 10, 2007
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