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Focus on Food Safety

Updated January 2011 -

The year 2010 saw incidents of food-borne illness from common foods such as eggs, spinach, tomatoes, ground beef, peanut butter, candy, pet food, and cookie dough    The nearly weekly investigations and recalls of various foods items from the USA and abroad created ever- mounting  pressure on the US Congress to take action and revise the nation’s food safety laws. 

In December 2010, the first major overhaul of the food-safety system since the1930s was adopted by the Congress and then signed into law by President Barack Obama in early January 2011.  The law calls for increasing government inspections at food-processing facilities and, for the first time, gives the Food and Drug Administration the power to order the recall of unsafe foods.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year 1 out of 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from food borne diseases. 12/2010

With increased regulation opposed by many family-owned and organic farmers, the legislation still needs to be funded and with the change in the control of the US House of Representatives funding might be a huge problem. The law does set standards and now shifts the focus to other countries that export food stuffs into the United States. A January poll of consumers in China indicated that more than 70% did not have confidence in the safety of their [nation’s] food supply. China is a large supplier of food to North America. It remains to be seen if food exporting countries will raise the bar on food safety in the future as a result of the US’s action.

Food Safety will continue to be a focus of interest of corporations, Congress and the public and AC subscribers will be able to read about it all here under the Hot Topic of Food Safety.

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Food…trust – and provider accountability -- the three terms clearly go together. We consume food hundreds, even thousands of miles from its origination.  Trust is everything!  Anything we put in our bodies every day should be “trustworthy,” in terms of where it came from -- and everyone involved in the food supply chain should be accountable for their actions (or inaction in certain cases).  From grower / farmer / planter / rancher to food processor to retailer or food service or restaurant…and then to each of us – there is a clear chain of accountability. Trust is the important foundation all along the human food chain – preserving trust should be an imperative for every player.  And yet, accidents do happen.  Each year in the United States tainted foods cause an estimated 75 million illnesses resulting in more than 300,000 hospitalizations and as many as 5,000 deaths or more. (World-wide food hazards kill more than 1.8 million people each year, mostly affecting children.)

The impact on the U.S. economy in medical costs alone top $6.5 billion with maybe two or three times that number in financial losses to business, industry and government.  More and more of the food items that we in the U.S.A. consume come to our shores from foreign and third world production and processing sources, where there can be a lack of adequate sanitation or proper food handling procedures and oversight.

Even here in America, numerous food processing issues arise each year, typically involving incidents of food-borne illnesses originating from such biological hazards as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, and these and more continue to be significant public health threats. Those at greatest risk are children, senior citizens, pregnant women and their unborn children, and those with impacted immune systems.

There is heightened interest in food safety issues on the part of consumers and their advocates; government officials at the federal, state and local levels; the healthcare community; media; and food, retailing and restaurant industries. The nation has made great progress in identifying harmful food production technologies, ramping up safety procedures, and adopting rules and regulations and to promote safer methods of handling and preparing foods.

Food Safety is all about Accountability – and trust.  The AC Hot Topic – Food Safety section is designed to present timely and useful news and information, a range of commentary, and reports on research on food safety topics.  The objective: To improve and expand the public dialogue and contribute to the goal of safer food sources, processing and monitoring for all citizens.  As always, we are interested in your comments on this important topic.

 


Latest on Focus on Food Safety

October 5, 2011 Organic food no guarantee against foodborne illness

Source: iWatch News

Eating organic may limit your exposure to pesticides. It may make you feel environmentally conscious. It can help support local farmers. But scientists warn it won’t necessarily protect you against foodborne illnesses. Organics,...

October 5, 2011 Family of listeria victim, 87, shocked by news of cause

Source: Denver Post

William Beach did what old folks with sensitive stomachs do: He found cantaloupe was agreeing with him that week, and so he ate it for five days straight. Beach's wife, Monette, was happy to keep buying the melons for her retired...

October 4, 2011 Flood of food imported to U.S., but only 2 percent inspected

Source: MSNBC

EAST LOS ANGELES, Calif. — At a sprawling warehouse here, two investigators from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration watched intently as 50 boxes of preserved bean curd from China were emptied into a grinding machine. The...

October 4, 2011 Calif. lettuce recall covers 19 states, Canada

Source: USA Today

SALINAS, Calif. (AP) – A California farm that issued a voluntary lettuce recall over listeria contamination concerns says its notice has gone out to 19 states and Canada. True Leaf Farms of Salinas initially announced a recall of...

October 3, 2011 Cantaloupe farm at center of recall left reeling

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Holly, Colo. -- Eric Jensen surveys his dusty cantaloupe field and seems equally stunned and puzzled at the fate that has befallen his crop: row upon row of melons rotting on the vine. Read more:

September 30, 2011 Killer cantaloupe, scary sprouts: No food is totally safe, but you can reduce your risk

Source: Washington Post

MILWAUKEE — Avoid foreign produce. Wash and peel your fruit. Keep it refrigerated. None of these common tips would have guaranteed your safety from the deadliest food outbreak in a decade, the one involving cantaloupes from...

September 29, 2011 Listeria outbreak expected to cause more deaths across US in coming weeks

Source: Guardian.co.uk

An outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe melons in the US may cause more illness and more deaths in the coming weeks, say US health officials. So far, the outbreak has caused at least 72 illnesses and up to 16 deaths, in 18 states,...

September 29, 2011 E. coli scare prompts Tyson to recall ground beef

Source: Forbes

CINCINNATI -- Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. is recalling about 131,300 pounds of ground beef because a family in Ohio fell ill after eating meat produced by the company that was contaminated with E. coli, the U.S. Department of...

September 28, 2011 Listeria-cantaloupe-linked deaths rise to 16

Source: CBS News

WASHINGTON - As many as 16 people have died from possible listeria illnesses traced to Colorado cantaloupes, health officials say — a death toll that would make the food outbreak the deadliest in more than a decade.

September 27, 2011 Thousands of Pounds of Pork Products Recalled

Source: Wsaz.com

The US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said Monday that the recall by K. Heeps Inc. of Allentown is for 4.5 pound boxes of Imperial Sysco "Puree Shaped Meats Country Style Pork ...

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