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Tainted food sickens 48 mln each year: CDC


Dakki
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Article here.

(I think we need a "Food in the News" section)

48 million sick, 3 thousand dead a year in USA alone.

They apparently "did not examine whether people were sickened by poor food preparation or tainted meat and produce" (says CBC) but they're looking at inspecting plants more often and gov't-ordered recalls.

Hey, it can't hurt.

I think we need more education. I don't have any actual figures (feel free to correct me if you do) but I'm pretty sure most food poisoning comes from unsafe handling at home, not the rarer but highly publicized outbreaks from restaurants and packaged foods.

The vast majority of people are pretty clueless when it comes to food safety. I've seen people plop a bunch of salad leaves in a puddle of raw chicken juice without a second thought, refuse to sanitize organic tomatoes because harsh chemicals will take away the organicness and so on. I think the current foodie media boom helps to an extent but I sometimes see stuff in print that's basically outlawed under the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

So what's your take?

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I don't doubt either that most of these illnesses are from poor food safety at home, but the amount of food (measured in tons) that has to be destroyed due to recalls is horrible.

I may be wrong about this, but I have to think the food safety at home issue is linked to the decline of home ec classes in schools. I learned that you just don't do some things from my mother and grandmother - the salad in the chicken juice would have been a big one from them. But home ec was the first place I ever heard the phrase "food safety". I've taught my son about the right way to handle food in the kitchen, but if people never learn in the first place, they can't teach their kids the same thing. If they grow up seeing mom leave the potato salad out on the counter all day before putting it in the refrigerator to eat later, they're going to think that's okay when they're feeding their families later on.

On the flip side, people have been taught to trust the food they buy in stores. Combining a lack of knowledge about food safety with food that may not be safe seems like disaster waiting to happen. People can be taught food safety, but the food producers should be held more accountable than they are now. As large as the recalls have been, they've been voluntary. If they were mandated by the FDA, I can't help but think that there would be more.

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I wonder by how much these statistics would drop, if people were consistently careful about personal and kitchen hygiene.

After all, careful prep removes or destroys a lot of pathogens: You kind of have to start from the assumption that most raw food items have a fair chance of being contaminated, and act accordingly.

I admit to having been a germ freak as far back as I was able to understand the concept of 'germs', which was when I was about six: At my school, in Italy, we queued up to go to the loo, and then the teacher would keep an eye on us to make certain we all washed up properly (each of us using our own personal soap, nail brush, and towel, which were brought to school every day in a sponge bag); we were told in simple, but very clear terms why this was important.

Since then, however, I've also had my mind persistently boggled by those who seem to think they're getting away with something clever by not washing their hands before eating, or ignoring basic kitchen hygiene.

Producers and distributors should take a great deal more care in their plants, but a lot of the risk posed by contaminants would still rest with the consumer; teaching kids to take care of themselves at an early age would not only be likely to improve hygiene at personal level, but would also encourage these kids, once they became adults, to be a great deal more demanding about the safety of the food they purchase: If you don't care much, you don't care much right across the board.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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All,

I don't think that increased recall power from the FDA or USDA is a remotely good idea, although an increased budget for them would be good. The FDA, in particular, is notorious for requesting recalls based on flimsy evidence ... like the tomato recall of a couple years ago, which after-the-fact turned out to be a rash of food poisoning caused by poor sanitation at Mexican restaurants, rather than anything at the source.

I agree that the best thing the FDA and USDA could do with an increased budget is a home-food-saftey and restaurant-food-safety education campaign. Barring new evidence, I'd guess that at least 3/4 of the foodbourne illness occurs during preparation, and not in supplied ingredients.

The Fuzzy Chef

www.fuzzychef.org

Think globally, eat globally

San Francisco

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All,

I don't think that increased recall power from the FDA or USDA is a remotely good idea, although an increased budget for them would be good. The FDA, in particular, is notorious for requesting recalls based on flimsy evidence ... like the tomato recall of a couple years ago, which after-the-fact turned out to be a rash of food poisoning caused by poor sanitation at Mexican restaurants, rather than anything at the source.

I agree that the best thing the FDA and USDA could do with an increased budget is a home-food-saftey and restaurant-food-safety education campaign. Barring new evidence, I'd guess that at least 3/4 of the foodbourne illness occurs during preparation, and not in supplied ingredients.

Ummmmm, so the whole egg contamination from the one mega-purveyor this last summer, and the summer of 2009's country-wide peanut problems, again due to ONE mega-purveyor, were because people and restaurants don't know how to handle their raw food supplies?

Yeah. Don't think so. The tomato issue you cite is small potatoes compared to the peanut and egg contaminations, which are STILL causing finished product recalls, even more than a year after the discovery of the initial problem.

The food supply system in this country is out of control, and needs to be reigned in, and reingned in now. No doubt basic food safety in both the home and industry is also required, but the food supply system is broken. And is putting us all at risk.

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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