June 25, 2013, 1:59 PM — In September 2006, people started to get sick from spinach contaminated with E. coli bacteria. As more people were hospitalized, investigators narrowed the list of suspects but couldn't pinpoint the source of the contamination.
Incomplete electronic data, unreliable verbal reports and long trudges through too many paper files hindered progress. The FBI served search warrants. Even the Bioterrorism Act, which was enacted after 9/11 in part to tighten monitoring of the American food supply, didn't work as envisioned.
[Related: See "Tracing Guns Is a Low-Tech, Inefficient Process" at the end of this article]