Food Safety Irony

Even though we’ve had some major food borne illness outbreaks in 2011, the latest being an outbreak of listeria from cantaloupe,  Americans interest in food safety is declining, NPR says. Perhaps not surprisingly, those that have a lower income level are more concerned – they have a great deal more to lose than those of us with health insurance who can afford to get sick.

So perhaps the USDA was just waiting for people to stop caring so they could look like heroes instead of just following through on something that should have been done years ago when they made all SIX strains of e.coli illegal this week. Yup, you read that correctly – until now, five of six e.coli strains have been legal and unregulated.

Until this ban, the only illegal strain was the one that caused the 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak that killed four children and sickened hundreds of others (including my sister, I’m pretty sure). Jack, the loveable, dry, sarcastic mascot, was born out of this disaster to try to save Jack in the Box from bankruptcy. Surprisingly, it worked. (Even prior to this outbreak, horse meat was found in the plant that supplied beef to Jack in the Box). Jack in the Box seems to have turned it around though – in 2004 they won the Black Pearl Award for food safety; which is described this way on the brochure:

The Elusive Black Pearl
Sought after from Oceania
To the Orient by European Lords
And Asian Emperors Alike,
Its Rarity a Sign of Determination,
Its Luster a Sign of Quality,
Its Acquisition a Sign of Excellence

Well if European Lords and Asian Emperors want it, it must be legit.

Anyway, it’s simply hard for me to believe that anyone is not concerned about food safety, especially in an era where industrial agriculture is packing animals into small spaces and produce is going uninspected – let it be noted that as with the cantaloupes, food safety is NOT just an industrial meal industry issue, and even though I don’t eat meat, I applaud those ranchers who do have rigorous safety standards that they adhere to.

So what can we do? If you’re able, shop at the farmer’s market and talk to folks. That’s probably the number one way to know where you food is coming from and how it’s being handled. Get out there and visit the farms, if you can. Stay up to date on Food Safety News – the homepage alone has enough stories to make you want to only eat food from your backyard.

Spread the word, spread (correct) information and know where you food is coming from.




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