I've touched on my concerns over the safety of our foods a few times, mostly as it has affected my life and food choices. Beyond personal "issues" food safety is a problem that we are coming face-to-face with more frequently.
Are there more problems out there or are we just hearing about them more frequently? I don't know the answer to that question, and perhaps no one does with any certitude. Regardless of whether there are more problems, or whether we are just being regaled with them more frequently, there are problems.
By Lauran Neergaard
Saturday, August 2, 2008
WASHINGTON -- Could food producers literally squeeze the salmonella out of a jalapeño? Or zap the E. coli from lettuce without it going limp?
Headline-grabbing food poisonings from raw foods are prompting new interest in technology -- from super-high pressure to irradiation -- to get rid of some of the bugs. It won't be a panacea: Far better to prevent contamination on the farm than to try to get rid of it later.
"This is never an excuse for a dirty product," warns University of Minnesota infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm.
But it's impossible to prevent all contamination in open fields. And increasingly popular ready-to-eat foods -- salads already washed and bagged, fruit peeled and sliced -- allow another processing step where a single slip-up can introduce pathogens.
Washing, even with chlorine or other chemicals, only gets rid of surface contaminants, not germs that sneak inside the fruit or vegetable. Enter high-tech options.
Even though I have concerns for the safety of my food and our food supply overall, I am not one to get "het-up" over issues such as irradiated or genetically modified foods. In reality, I support both… <gasp>.
I find it an embarrassment that in the 21st century we find people who think that rice meant to feed malnourished children that has an included gene to produce vitamin C is a BAD thing. I find it angering in an age of food scarcity people shun and actively lobby against genetic modifications, which by the way have been going on for a very, very long time (Mendel in the kitchen, Fedoroff and Brown). But I digress.
The safety of the foods I purchase in the store was something I took for granted only a short decade ago. And two decades ago I would not have thought a thing about biting into an apple or grape without first washing it… <gasp>. Yes, those attitudes were more driven by my own ignorance over food safety back then, but still and all, I don't feel as though I am being fastidious in my concern today, merely informed enough to realize the problems.
Because there are genuine problems, as opposed to media driven hype and hysteria we saw with the pesticide Alar and apples, (JunkScience.com), we need a combination of solutions and smart consumption. I applaud the efforts and those working toward solutions.
For all the Luddites out there – well – it is the 21st century after all, and we have 6.5 billion people to feed. If I promise not to take away your choice of organic heirlooms will you promise not to take away solutions for the hungry and malnourished? Why do I have the feeling that's a stupid question.