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The Washington Post reports that the “growing debate” about food safety has begun to focus on the fact that “companies increasingly are paying others to make the foods we eat - or the ingredients in them - and then selling it under multiple brand names.” Critics, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), say that this trend leads to less oversight and grater difficulty in tracing where products come from and how, in some cases, they became unsafe to consume.

However, industry spokesmen say that “the rash of recent major food safety recalls and the consolidation of food production” is simply a coincidence, and that there is no reason for any manufacturer in the supply chain to skimp of food safety measures. "If we use the classic term, 'barking up the wrong tree,' that would be the case here," said Craig Henry of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).
KC's View:
I’m not sure that this really is an “either/or” situation.

I would agree with industry defenders that there is no reason for manufacturers – no matter where they may be in the supply chain – to skimp on food safety measures. But just a coincidence that longer supply chains and more food safety problems have taken place at the same time? I think not.

It simply is logical to work under the premise that the more links there are in a chain, the greater the likelihood that one of those links might be flawed. And, quite clearly, there are flaws – or there wouldn’t be so many recalls in the news these days.

I’m not suggesting that the problems taking place in the supply chain are deliberate. I think some probably are a matter of laziness, some are simply human error, some are technological. But I also think that the same economic issues that motivate companies to outsource – the desire to drive costs and prices down, down, down – can lead to safety-related missteps as people try to push efficiency too far.

The challenge to the industry is to compensate for the lengthening supply chain. Making sure all the links are strong will be a responsibility that must be shared by retailers and manufacturers. Nothing less than consumer trust is at stake here.