Opinion

''Pew Report Shows Flaw in Tracing Food-Safety Lapses

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"Twenty-two weeks. That's how long it took federal health officials to determine the contaminated food source after the first person was infected in a 2011 outbreak of salmonella that swept across 34 states, sickened 136 people and led to one of the largest national recalls of ground turkey.

The headlines generated by that outbreak have faded. But the disturbingly slow trace-back time frame and other weaknesses — spotlighted in a new national report from the respected Pew Charitable Trusts — merit close scrutiny. The findings are especially valuable as landmark new federal food-safety reforms roll out."

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"The Pew report adds to public efforts underway to do this. Its findings from its 2011 look-back don't just highlight weaknesses in one outbreak but suggest opportunities for systemic improvement of surveillance and response.

Among its recommendations: Public health officials should notify and work with industry sooner when a company's products may be involved in an outbreak. Additional information about food brands, processing plants and purchase dates should be uploaded to a key public health database used by disease detectives to monitor potential outbreaks. And, public health officials should put a higher priority on detecting potential salmonella outbreaks and understanding its transmission."

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