By Janelle Sorensen
(Thanks to Janelle for her permission to re-post this article.)
I, like many others, have lost track of all the food recalls that have happened in the last 18 months. Pot pies, pizzas, peanuts, tomatoes, egg rolls, spices, flour, and more. The number of illnesses and the amount of food thrown away is staggering.
Fortunately, none of the tainted foods have impacted my kitchen. Our culinary choices thus far have been safe. But, my faith in the FDA, who I once relied on as an invisible guardian watching over my plate, has been shattered. My optimistically naïve belief that food, of all things, should be safe, has gone the way of childhood beliefs in Santa and the Easter Bunny. And, I’m not just being dramatic – here’s why:
According to an article in the New York Times, “increasingly, the corporations that supply Americans with processed foods are unable to guarantee the safety of their ingredients…companies do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes and other potential dangers…”
They don’t know where the ingredients are coming from? Seriously??
Not only are many major manufacturers openly admitting that they’re pretty clueless about what’s in their food, instead of owning up to their mistakes, they’re placing the burden for safety on the consumer. We are now responsible for what’s called “the kill step,” and it’s not clear what that entails. Some companies are resorting to detailed diagrams and “food safety” guides outlining how to heat foods in a microwave and then check the temperature in several locations with a food thermometer. Others advise against using a microwave altogether. Frozen convenience foods suddenly seem very inconvenient.
Even if simply educating people to warm food to an adequate temperature was a reasonable solution, which it’s not, it wouldn’t address non-pathogenic contaminants like the arsenic found in a huge variety of processed foods around the globe a few months back.
What’s a mother to do? I’ve been a loud proponent for whole foods, local and organic when possible, for many years now, but I still have some processed foods in my pantry. I mean, who really makes things like crackers and cereal from scratch? I also buy a lot of frozen veggies – and I’ve never checked to see if I’ve warmed them to 165 degrees.
Clearly, we have problem on our hands. What do you think should be done? Do you think food safety is up to the consumer? Do you think it’s up to the government? What if safer food meant it cost a bit more? Are you willing to pay?