“Everyone Knows Someone Who Needs This Information!” (TM)
Oh my! What an exposé! Just how safe is our food supply? I don’t have faith any more that we really know. The government can dig-deep into our grandchildren’s Future to suddenly provide irresponsible banks, bankers and Wall Street honchos with trillions in bail-outs, but it could never “find” the money to re-hire (and increase hiring) for properly-trained food scientists to be FDA food inspectors in domestic and international venues. It’s a scandal. And, there are not any plans to change it soon.
The latest debacle with peanuts and salmonella in Georgia just highlight the real problems with lack of inspection by superiorly trained inspectors, laws with real clout and mandatory correction ability or else plant closure.
In reading the current New York Times article, I’m even more disgusted. If you read my About Me page, you will see that I graduated from one of America’s 2 foremost Universities in Nutrition (and mine also has very heavy curricula in Food Safety; I assume the other school does too, but I can only speak for my own university). I took a class in Food Technology Safety and maybe that’s why I am SO concerned!
America has been lax. The Republicans kowtow to Big Business, which wants the bottom-line to boom, at all costs. The politicians gut regulations in return for campaign contributions, and leave all of us at risk. And, the biggest business players make sure they own both sides of the aisle, but the Republicans seem far too willing to cut regulatory laws (more so than Democrats do).
Either way, there’s NOT independence of inspectors with clout; NOT enough support for Inspection; NOT an increase in Inspection of foreign food-stuffs, especially Chinese, before any is ever used in our food.
I have written about the worst abusers, the Chinese, before, but when one country gets away with it, others soon follow. I know it causes practical problems to say an American lab has to test all foreign products before American manufacturers get to use them, but that’s really what has to happen. You need to lobby Congress and your state legislature about this, because the elderly, the young, pregnant women and infants and the chronically ill are most at risk.
The Times article explains:
“With government inspectors overwhelmed by the task of guarding the nation’s food supply, the job of monitoring food plants has in large part fallen to an army of private auditors …
“The contributions of third-party audits to food safety is the same as the contribution of mail-order diploma mills to education,” said Mansour Samadpour, a Seattle consultant who has worked with companies nationwide to improve food safety. …
“Audits are not required by the government, but food companies are increasingly requiring suppliers to undergo them as a way to ensure safety and minimize liability. The rigor of audits varies widely and many companies choose the cheapest ones, which cost as little as $1,000, in contrast to the $8,000 the Food and Drug Administration spends to inspect a plant.” …
“Typically, the private auditors inspect only manufacturing plants, not the suppliers that feed ingredients to those facilities. Nor do they commonly test the actual food products for pathogens, even though gleaming production lines can turn out poisoned fare.” …
“As in the Georgia peanut case, auditors are also usually paid by the food plants they inspect, which some experts said could deter them from cracking down. Yet food companies often point to an auditor’s certificate as a seal of approval.” …
I encourage you to learn more about safe food practices, in your own kitchen and commercially. You should check out your supermarkets and see how people are handling the foods everywhere in the market. Check whether the cold stuff is cold enough and the hot is hot (from the deli, etc.). What is in the case next to one another, especially in the meat and deli cases? Do the food handlers also handle money? Do they change their gloves, after touching money or non-food surfaces?
Make sure you use the sanitary wipes to clean off your basket before putting your food where raw meat or a baby’s butt or toddlers’ shoes can have been!
Ask about sanitation in your favorite restaurants by trying to get the city Sanitarian’s reports. My state used to have an A, B, C and F rating for restaurants that they were required to post prominently. But there was a hue and cry, and now it is reduced to posting Pass and Pending / Failed. This is NOT sufficient. No-one is going to change this if the Public doesn’t care. There’s a HUGE difference between A and C, let alone F, in the real world of food.
Yes, I know it’s one more worry. But, you need to be pro-active. Learn to cook as much as you can from scratch. Use undamaged, well-cared for, fresh food. Buy only what you need so you can use it immediately or soon enough to still be nutritious and safe.
Wash fresh produce VERY well. (Most farmers still don’t provide good sanitation for field workers, and there’s always animal doing their bathroom jobs just anywhere, too).
Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are at proper temperature range (Taylor makes great thermometers).
Cook animal foods to their proper internal temperatures. Minimum for meats as steaks or roasts should be 155F, in my opinion, and ground meats are even higher (160F minimum for beef) these days. Any good cookbook will tell you or you can look online for the Safe Food information from the US Government. There’s a lot of useful information for consumers on the government sites.
I absolutely disagree with the use of “Irradiation” for any reason and the law should require labeling of all genetically-modified (GMO) and / or irradiated food. Basically, irradiated food is NOT “food” any more and neither are Frankenfoods.
Check canned goods for any swelling and check there are no dents near any seam of the can (better NOT to use dented cans at all, but some of us can’t be that choosy, especially when supermarket clerks pack things improperly). It’s best to make sure you buy undented cans the first time and watch how they are being packed.
Make sure all bottled foods have a safe-top that is sucked in towards the food i.e. the little center region of the lid is not raised.
Shop for all the cold, freezer, fresh food and hot food last. Do any non-refrigerated produce and staples in the center of the market first. I also use the frozen food packages to help keep my refrigerator foods cold in the basket, and I place all the fresh produce stuff from the refrigerators together in their bags to help each other stay cooler.
Check all cheese is free of mold. I prefer to not buy re-wrapped cheese, but that’s often hard to find except for a few manufacturers. Wash all cheese packages with soap and water before opening; dry them and place in a clean container in the refrigerator.
In your own kitchen, always have clean hands when you touch any food and keep raw meat untensils, mats and surfaces free from use by anything else. Expect to wash your hands tens of times during a meal’s preparation and keep washing food prep surfaces, too. There are NO short-cuts.
Check all shelf dates and organize your pantry so oldest will be used first and in the fridge or freezer the older stuff will be where you choose it first.
Do NOT use any left-over food which is older than 4 days and nothing should have been “left-out” during or after a meal for more than about 90 minutes, even less in hot weather. Download the 1 page Quick Sheet at: Limit To Left-overs
As the economy worsens, I expect there to be a lot more cutting-corners in all kinds of businesses, and who’s watching! So you have to be your own first-line of defense, and preparing your own meals will be safer if you learn more and follow the safety guidlines you now know.
“Even when audits do turn up problems, it is up to the discretion of food companies to fix them. ” …
…”Costco, Kraft Foods and Darden Restaurants are among a group of food manufacturers and other companies that use detailed plans to prevent food safety hazards. They also supplement third-party audits with their own inspections and testing of ingredients and plant surfaces for microbes.”
Reward those who are responsible and conscientious manufacturers and business people. Work hard to get more local, state and national laws in place, and demand country of origin legislation. Decide what countries you are willing to accept food from (you’d be shocked at the huge amount of fresh food that also ships from China). Learn lots more!
These food borne illnesses are NOT benign. If you learn what I did in my Food Technology class, you’d be fastidious, as I try to be! These bacteria kill; they maim; they change people’s lives unnecessarily. It’s often a lot more than just a day or so in the bathroom. Please regard this as a BIG wake-up call.
just for starters. I may add more.
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Best to all — Em
(c)2009 Em https://diabetesdietdialogue.wordpress.com
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