The US government's ability to trace foods and ingredients has been found lacking, a federal report released today (26 March) has concluded.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that investigators had tried to trace 40 foods through the supply chain.

Investigators purchased items ranging from oatmeal to yoghurt and then attempted to trace from the retailer back through the supply chain. Of the 40 products purchased, only five could be fully traced. 

This, the spokesperson said, highlights the "concerning" weakness of current US traceability systems and could potentially diminish regulators' ability to pinpoint the source of a disease outbreak or bioterrorism attack.

Federal law requires food companies to maintain records that would allow investigators to follow ingredients one step up or down the supply chain.

However, the investigation found that many companies fail to keep adequately detailed records. Indeed, one-quarter of company managers were unaware of the requirement.

The news comes amid growing criticism of food regulatory bodies in the wake of the salmonella outbreak linked to peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America. Critics claim that the nation's disparate food regulatory bodies have proven themselves incapable of safeguarding the safety of the food supply in the US.