"The summer of 2008 was a low point in Sherri A. McGarry’s career. McGarry, who heads the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s food outbreak response team, was searching for the origins of a salmonella scare that had started in Minnesota and would spread to 43 states. Working day and night in the FDA’s Maryland emergency operations center, she tried to zero in on the contaminated produce she believed was to blame.
Food manufacturers said they didn’t have the details she needed to follow the produce back through the supply chain to the source. Under the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which governs how much food manufacturers must know about the provenance of their ingredients, companies are required to keep records only on what’s known as 'one up/one back'—that is, whom they bought it from and whom they’ll sell it to. As a result, the industry has very little incentive to find out, or disclose, more than that. 'It’s less likely you’ll be held liable if folks can’t prove that you’re the source of the contamination,' says Erik Olson, director of food programs at the Pew Health Group, which studies food safety..."