Combine these trends with regulatory shortcomings, and the problems are magnified. Experts such as Hansen say there aren't enough inspections of food plants in general. And that's because there aren't enough government inspectors to go around.
In fact, inadequate inspections are just one of a number of problems plaguing the government's food-safety system, experts say.
Another problem is the lack of a mandatory recall authority. All product recalls are voluntary on the part of the company. "The government not having mandatory recall authority is just absurd," Hansen said.
Some have proposed that a centralized food "czar" be put in control of all food-safety issues, rather than the current fragmented system, which is divided unequally -- and many say inequitably -- between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"They had been talking about making this a cabinet-level position," Tierno said.
Obviously, much of the burden for remedy lies with big business and the government, but there are things consumers can do.
"Consumers can cook things to higher temperatures if they're concerned about killing bacteria," Hansen said.
Also, be careful not to cross-contaminate surfaces. If you've chopped a chicken on a cutting board, clean the board and the knife before using it on salad or vegetables.
"People can focus on things more locally and go to farmer's markets or join a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture]," Hansen said.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on food safety.
SOURCES: Michael Hanse
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