The average amount of time that commercial trucks take to clear customs at the United States/Mexico border? Less than a minute. That’s according to a story in the Dallas Morning News, which takes a lengthy look at the overworked, underfunded world of food safety inspection. There’s simply no way to inspect the growing amount of food that crosses the border, which is why the government’s now proposing to put “more emphasis on inspections in the countries of origin” (an idea that was floated last December amid the flood of China recalls). That same proposal would, finally, give the FDA the power to issue mandatory recalls, something the agency currently can only do voluntarily.
As the Morning News notes, the bigger recalls last year actually came from domestic, not foreign, producers. But it seems obvious that with incidents like the following, the system needs to be tweaked:
In December, officials took a sample for testing from a 5,500-pound load of Mexican basil moving through the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego. The basil continued on to its destination and was sold to restaurants and other customers in California, Texas and Illinois the next day.
When the test results came back two weeks later, they suggested salmonella contamination, sparking a late recall.
Not the ideal sequence of events.