Food-Safety

Making Wise Choices



Food-Safety - The Dirty Little Secret

Wondering about salmonella in eggs?

Worried about mad-cow disease?

Take some time to discover how can you eat safely in an industrialized world, where the key is to make informed choices.

Even as bacterial outbreaks have become more high-profile, and the financial fallout from recalls more severe, the government has been handing off many of these responsibilities to private industry.

Today, the safety of your food is a business.

BIG business!

For most of us, our government food agency is still the public face of food-safety.

But in reality, oversight of farms and food plants has gradually changed hands.

There is now a cottage industry of third-party companies calling themselves "food-safety consultants."

This has created some alarming potential gaps.

There's no certification system for these third-party inspectors.

Critics worry that retailers hire these companies not just to ensure food quality, but also as a defense mechanism to help protect their public image in case something goes wrong.

And while tomato and spinach growers are audited heavily because they've had so many problems in the past, other crops, such as broccoli and cauliflower, are scrutinized much less.

Many growers are living in a continuing state of denial about whether they should be doing anything.

There's also the concern that these efforts could actually be making food less safe.

In some cases, a grower needs to pay for audits from six or seven companies just to satisfy the demands of all of its different buyers.

The overlapping attention might help eliminate problems, but it's also costly.

For slaughter facilities squeezed by rising costs, surreptitiously cutting out E. coli tests has been one of their money-saving tactics.

To get a further sense of the problem, consider that today about 80 percent of the United State’s seafood and slightly less than half of its fresh fruits are imported from overseas.

But the U.S.F.D.A. inspects only about 1 percent.

Meanwhile, it would cost the F.D.A. more than $3.5 billion to inspect every one of the roughly 250,000 domestic and foreign food facilities in the U.S., just once.

In reality, industry insiders say the F.D.A. is lucky if it gets to the same facility once every three years.

Last year a survey of 2,500 Americans found that 93 percent were “as concerned or more concerned” about contracting food-borne illnesses than they were the year before.

*** See; Food Poisoning & 8 Ways to Prevent It At Home

Considering all the food scares we’ve had since then, one can only conclude that this food-safety feeling would still hold strong.

That there is a need for a major overhaul of the U.S. food system, including food-safety, goes without saying.

One government food-safety agency cannot possibly monitor all of the food being produced in and imported into the United States.

A private sector of food-safety inspectors sounds like a solution, but what are the odds of finding truly unbiased inspectors that have no ties to any of the major food industries?

Not very good.

An assistant director of Food and Water Watch, said, “They [The F.D.A.] don’t have the resources, the authority or the political will to really protect consumers from unsafe food.”

And therein lies the problem.

Unfortunately, many of the F.D.A.’s “solutions” to keep your food safe, are only contributing to the degradation of the food supply.

Food-safety Measures that are Destroying Your Food

Now that bacteria and disease outbreaks have become commonplace among the U.S. food supply, the F.D.A. has taken that as a carte blanche to nuke your meat and produce.

Rather than trying to clean up the food processing facilities or the conditions in which animals and produce are raised for food, they’ve decided to allow the filthiness to continue and instead their answer to food-safety is to irradiate the food.

Never mind that irradiation breaks up the cell walls of your food, kills beneficial enzymes and creates harmful free radicals.

Not to mention that some of the compounds created by the process are known to be cancer-causing while others have never been seen or studied before.

Even the survey I quoted earlier, the one that found most Americans to be concerned about food-borne illnesses, is not without an agenda.

It was conducted by TNS, a market research firm, but commissioned by National Pasteurized Eggs.

Why do you think a pasteurized egg company would want to be involved in this study?

To make you afraid.

And to make you think you need their pasteurized eggs to be safe.

Apparently it’s working, as sales of their pasteurized eggs increased 43 percent in the last year, a fact that astounds me considering how much healthier raw eggs are.

You see, food-safety is a real concern.

But, if you resort to only eating food that has been altered by high heat or radiation, because you’re afraid of bacteria, you are trading one evil for another.

True, you may avoid living bacteria (then again, it’s no guarantee), but you will still be exposed to the dead bacteria.

What many fail to realize is that pasteurization does nothing to remove the bacteria, it only kills live bacteria.

So the dead bacteria are still present and can trigger disease reactions.

Additionally, pasteurization depletes the food vitality and beneficial nutrients, enzymes, biophotons and other components that are crucial to your health and which are ONLY present in fresh, unadulterated food.

Let me say this one more time: the solution to improving food-safety does not lie in irradiation, pasteurization or any other technological advance.

Quite the contrary, it involves reverting back to the ways of past generations.

Finding Safe Food in a Polluted World

There are still sources of clean, pure food to be found if you know where to look and it’s not your supermarket.

As much as possible, try to get your food from a local farmer who still grows food on a small scale.

Talk to him or her about the growing conditions, use of pesticides and chemicals (there should be none), health of the animals and their access to pasture, and any other concern on your mind.

A reputable farmer will be happy to address your concerns in exchange for your business and good recommendation.

You can also find safe, fresh and whole foods by following these tips:

• The F.D.A., currently requires that irradiated foods include labeling with either the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol for irradiation, the radura.

That might change in the future, but for now, avoid all foods that contain these labels.

• Choose organic foods.

Certified organic foods may not be irradiated (and they also may not contain genetically modified ingredients or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers).

Food-safety for Fruits and Vegetables

Produce is very nutritious, providing minerals, vitamins, fiber, and protective compounds but it can also harbor toxins and contaminants.

Buy your produce locally.

Get to know a farmer near you (or join a food co-op with access to one.

Try to eat organic produce whenever possible.

This way, you’ll know how your food is grown.

Organic produce is grown without the use of toxic agrichemicals.

Inform yourself about which fruits and vegetables tend to have the most toxic residues.

Even organic produce may harbor bacteria, so be sure to peel those fruits and vegetables that can be peeled and to wash the rest before eating.

Use a small amount of diluted dish detergent and a vegetable scrubber, followed by a warm water rinse to remove residues and any food-grade wax.

There have been a few outbreaks of infections from lettuce contaminated by E. coli.

If your lettuce doesn't come out of a sealed package, it's important to wash it in cold running water.

A good rule of thumb to follow is three thorough rinsings.

(It's not a bad idea to do this for lettuce that comes in sealed packages as well.)

Grow your own food.

If you have the space, a small garden can produce plenty of produce for your family.

When eating out at a salad bar, make sure that the vegetables are well chilled (kept over ice) and that the food is properly shielded with a sneeze guard or hood.

Avoid any items that look old or dried out.

Food-safety and Eggs

To avoid salmonella enteritidis (S.E.), a common cause of food poisoning with many cases traced to eggs, do the following:

Always keep your eggs refrigerated.

Cook them until the yolks are firm and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

Be certain to clean off cutting boards and utensils thoroughly with hot water after working with raw eggs.

Eat organically produced eggs from free-range chickens when possible.

They taste better, are more nutritious and are less likely to have residues of antibiotics and other undesirable compounds.

Food-safety for Chicken and Turkey

To avoid the risk of campylobacter, salmonella or E. coli. infection, chicken and turkey need to be handled carefully during preparation: Cut raw meat and vegetables on separate surfaces, wash utensils carefully, and cook poultry thoroughly.

Buy organically grown chicken and turkey if you can, to minimize consumption of antibiotic residues and other toxins found in conventionally raised birds.

After working with raw meat or other animal foods, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with hot water along with all cutting surfaces and utensils to avoid transferring bacteria from one kind of food to another.

Food-safety and Beef

For a variety of reasons, people would do well to eat fewer foods of animal origin in general, and less beef in particular.

Some potential problems can be avoided with the following measures.

To minimize the chance of exposure to mad cow disease (also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or B.S.E.) follow these guidelines:

Humans probably contract mad-cow disease by eating meat that contains bits of brain or spinal cord tissue from infected cattle.

Avoid meat products likely to contain nerve tissue (hamburger, sausage, and meat attached to the bone such as T-bone steaks).

If you have to eat beef, try to get organic varieties.

Organically raised animals are not fed the garbage feeds responsible for transmitting B.S.E.

To avoid contamination from bacteria, especially dangerous strains of E. coli, always prepare meat separately and cook meat thoroughly before consuming.

Never prepare other food items with utensils used to prepare raw meat, such as knives, before cleaning them.

Food-safety and Salmon

Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect against heart attack, stroke, cancer, and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

However, the type of salmon you eat does matter:

Much higher levels of toxins are in farm-raised salmon, including dioxin and P.C.B's, both of which can cause certain types of cancer, and can have adverse effects on the brain development of fetuses and nursing infants.

Studies have shown that farmed salmon has more than 10 times the amount of these types of toxins than wild varieties.

Farm-raised salmon also contain residues of antibiotics and other drugs used to treat diseases that occur in the unnatural, crowded conditions of fish pens.

Farmed salmon are artificially colored and generally have a higher, less favorable ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in their tissue, and provide less protein than their wild counterparts.

Salmon farming is ecologically disastrous, since the diseases it generates infect (and might eventually decimate) wild populations; the waste it produces pollutes coastal waters; and the feed fish it requires hastens the depletion of the ocean's resources.

(It takes several pounds of feed fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon.)

Since salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which you should include in your diet on a regular basis, eat wild salmon, preferably Alaskan.

If this isn't available, you can get the same omega-3 fatty acids from sardines and herring, as well as from distilled fish oil supplements.

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