Tracking Food, for Safety’s Sake


The U.S. health authorities were so alarmed that they instructed grocery stores and consumers all across the nation to throw away any fresh spinach they possessed. Several million kilograms of leafy greens were destroyed in an attempt to keep consumers safe—but the subsequent investigation revealed that the contaminated spinach had all come from one processing plant in California and had been bagged up during a single shift.

The public health advisory was broad because authorities couldn’t swiftly discover the source of the contaminated produce they found in sick people’s homes. Instead, U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials had to comb through thousands of pages of documents, some of them handwritten, to trace the path of the malevolent greens. It was a perfect demonstration of how broken the food safety system is, and the desperate need for technological solutions. [See More]