Incentives for Safer Food

Over at the US Food Policy blog, Parke Wilde writes about the terrible track-record Foster Farms had with noncompliance leading up to it's widely publicized Salmonella outbreak.

Parke advocates for better public access to food safety information (such as, I presume, the public release of noncompliance reports written by food safety inspectors) as one approach to partially deal with food safety issues.  

He also points out the main challenge with food safety: as consumers we often cannot directly observe whether a food is contaminated before purchase.  Parke writes:

Food safety problems are fundamentally about lack of public information. If consumers had magic sunglasses that displayed the presence of Salmonella on chicken in the grocery store, there would be no need for government regulation. Immediately, faced with market consequences for distributing chicken with Salmonella, the companies would clean up their product.

Well, they may not be magic sunglasses, but it appears entrepreneurs are working on hand held sensorschopsticks, and iPhone apps that may one day let us quickly check for food contaminants.  

These innovations may, one day, prove to be a very powerful incentive for companies to provide safe food.  The nice thing - from the consumers' perspective - is that they let us take action before an illness happens.