Consumer Reports, the arbiter of safety and quality in consumer products ranging from cars to washing machines to baby cribs, will take a more prominent role in assessing food safety, using a new $2 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Announced on August 12, the grant will allow the magazine to invest much more in food safety testing. Consumer Reports has conducted previous investigations on BPA, pesticide contamination in vegetables, and arsenic in juices, but Pew’s support allows the publication to be much more ambitious. “We’ll be focusing mostly on pathogens, heavy metals, and carcinogens in food,” Jennifer Shecter, a senior policy analyst at the magazine, told the New York Times.
For some people who may be skeptical of the government’s ability to independently assess the safety of the food supply, results published by Consumer Reports might carry more weight. “Consumer Reports has made its reputation as an independent tester of a variety of products,” said Purnendu C. Vasavada, PhD, professor of food safety at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. “They must be thinking that they can bring something to the table in terms of that independence—a third party in the food safety picture.”
Dr. Vasavada also commended the Pew Charitable Trusts for its growing interest in food safety. “It’s good that this kind of effort is being put forth and private funding is coming to the fore, so that we don’t have to rely solely on government funding for food safety programs.”
But there’s more to food safety than just testing, he cautioned. “Testing is good for verification and getting a thumbnail impression of how good or bad a problem is and whether it’s improving or worsening. But the more testing you do, the more problems you will find. Unless you have a remedy for managing, controlling, and mitigating, testing per se doesn’t help the situation.”