Provenance = Food Safety

Should you be responsible for the safety of your food? The article, Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers, in the New York Times is scary. The fundamental point is that it’s extremely difficult for companies that make ready-made frozen meals to verify the safety of their food  because the supply chains have gotten so complex and they cannot track the provenance of the ingredients. Furthermore, the manufactures have resisted putting in place tracking systems. From the article:

But government efforts to impose tougher trace-back requirements for ingredients have met with resistance from food industry groups including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which complained to the Food and Drug Administration: “This information is not reasonably needed and it is often not practical or possible to provide it.

Instead of instituting a track back mechanism, the manufactures are trying to get consumers to ensure they cook their meals safe, reaching a “kill-step” where bacteria is destroyed. However, as discussed in the article this is actually very hard to do for some meals. 

Personally, I’m going to lay off ready made meals, which is unfortunate because they do come in handy. Generally, I want to know about provenance even if I can destroy all the bacteria with a smoking microwave. Additionally, I wonder how we can get the computer science research products we have been doing in the CS Provenance Community into the hands of these manufacturers. I really believe the collecting and managing the kind of the documentation they need can be significantly cheaper and more effective than they expect using our technology.

Check out further discussion at the New York Times’ Room For Debate blog.

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