Let's start with the good news: Members of a consumer panel seated during a convention about poultry marketing declared that they were generally confident about food-safety issues and -- more interesting -- had few qualms about product that might have been irradiated, or developed using biotechnology techniques. And the panelists said they had heard a little about the controversy swirling around such product modifications, but weren't particularly concerned about it nonetheless. Some, though, confessed to knowing fairly little about the topic.
But here's the key: Panelists also said they were sanguine about altered product because they assumed it would be "reviewed and regulated" by some governmental entity. A news article about the presentation is on Page 25.
The second news article on the same page, about a food-safety conference, observes that from the perspective of one major chain -- A&P -- food-safety issues such as those mentioned by the panelists haven't impinged much at the retail level. A representative of that chain said that several letters from activists have been received, but there have been no instances of picketing or other stronger protest forms.
This second news article brings up the bad news about food safety, or at least provides a reality check, by pointing out how difficult food-safety execution is in real-world situations. Here's the view on that, some of which was intended to describe the restaurant industry -- depending on the presenter -- but it applies to supermarket service workers just as well: The initial barrier to excellent food-safety execution is worker turnover and training. In many instances, turnover may be 250% a year, so making sure training is up to speed and excellent, so execution can be the same, is difficult. It might be added that high turnover discourages training in the first place: If every new worker has a foot out the door right from the start, why bother?
And, even assuming that training is successfully carried out, what assurance can there be that procedures known to workers are being followed by workers?
A&P has plans to use more in-store posters with iconography to promote compliance. For instance, a sign with a picture of hands being washed might be much better than a lettered sign requiring the same thing.
Finally, on a more fundamental level, who can guarantee that food product is safe when it arrives at the store from a vendor?
There are certification procedures, and all certifiers hue to common standards, but some such procedures are audited and accredited, some aren't. That opens the possibility of spotty compliance and inconsistency, or product that's certified, but not necessarily up to a retailer's standards.