Food Safety: no such thing as TMI

“There are certain things only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat are safe and do not cause us harm.”

– President Obama


Food safety news has been generating a lot of buzz.

The New York Times kicked things off with a front page article that was a real stunner even for veterans of the food safety wars who had long ago given up on rare beef and fast food hamburgers. It shocked on two levels as it tracked the patently execrable path of contaminated beef from slaughterhouse to supermarket, and recounted the tragic results when the pathogen was consumed by a 22 year old children’s dance instructor from Minnesota.

If you think that your supermarket’s shrink-wrapped packages of ground beef come from hunks of beef passed through meat grinders, the Times article will take you on an eye-opening, stomach-churning journey. In the Minnesota case, which involved a “premium” store brand known as American Chef’s Selection Angus Beef Patties, the largest component in the mixture was also the cheapest: slaughterhouse trimmings known as 50/50 (half meat/half fat). The fat level was reduced with the addition of a leaner, mash-like substance that had been treated with ammonia to halt the growth of bacteria.

Lower-grade cuts of beef are more likely to have had contact with E. coli-carrying feces. Since most large-scale processors test for bacteria only after ingredients are ground together, the source of contamination is hard to identify and contain. In the Times report, the ground beef came from suppliers in 3 states plus the country of Uruguay. With meat from thousands of untested cattle processed and combined in a single day at any one of the suppliers’ facilities, it was impossible to pinpoint the origins of the outbreak.

Until our arcane and archaic food safety laws catch up with our globalized system of food production, we need to stay informed and vigilant. To that end, this fall the US Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture launched The website pulls information from numerous, scattered government agencies (including the Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control) that share responsibility for the safety of our food supply. You can sign up for email alerts or RSS feeds of product recalls and food safety announcements, report problems, and send e-cards to alert all your friends to food safety issues.


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4 Responses to Food Safety: no such thing as TMI

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  3. LARRY STONE says:

    I have been fighting to have millions of pounds of contaminated meat recalled that was produced using a warehouse facility that makes the PBA facility look like the Ritz. The pictures I gave to the USDA and the FDA showed RAT fecal matter and rodents nests on food ingredients and materials, I submitted documents to the USDA proving the use of this contaminated warehouse for years and was denied a recall of my own products .Why –to protect a State institution that was contracted to produce this meat for my company.
    Agencies state the manufacturer must generate the recall and the FDA and USDA not having the authority to initiate this action as the reason bad food gets into the system .This is not so ,I am proof of this statement not being accurate. Even when the USDA went and found this contaminated warehouse with live rodents they never tested any product for salmonella and co-operated with the state of Florida to use possible contaminated ingredients in further meat processing.
    I applaud your very fine story and comments and appeal to you to visit my blog site and see the evidence of rat fecal contamination in meats produced by an instrument of the State of Florida department of Corrections. I have been battling with the USDA to issue a recall on the millions of pounds of meat the State of Florida produced under contract for my company. This meat was distributed nation wide to schools, supermarkets and institutions. When we discovered that this Florida State division was storing food supplies and edible ingredients in a rat infested warehouse we began our quest to get this information to the public and get accountability placed on those who allowed this to happen. When you read the information on my blog you will see the validity of both our stories .I support your efforts and request your support of mine. Regards Larry Stone

  4. Anne Parkhill says:

    I am extremely interested in anything to do with food safety and food recalls. It is high time that all people to a profound interest in what is being grown, what is being manufactured, and what does not meet the standards of either the United States or of Canada.

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