Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Protecting Families From Foodborne Illness

As we coast up and down the aisles of our local supermarket, searching for the freshest looking produce, we often forget about the legal agreement between consumer and producer that ensures us the right to produce that won’t jeopardize our well-being.

But with the recent of spike deaths and illness related to salmonella and E. coli, many wonder what our elected officials doing to guarantee safe food for America’s families.

In a 500 page report released on Tuesday, the Institute of Medicine – an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters – concluded that the Food and Drug Administration is too reactive and lacks serious authority.

Rather than negotiating recalls long after contaminated products have been shipped, stocked and purchased, researchers are recommending that the FDA become more proactive by identifying foodborne diseases before they ever leave the manufacturer. This can be achieved, the committee says, by investing more energy in food inspections and strengthening communication between the FDA and state food safety agencies.      

On the heels of this new report, a coalition of food safety advocates are launching a media blitz this week aimed at convincing senators to pass food safety legislation S. 510. The bill, which was approved by the House last July, already comprises many of the recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine.

Even though peanuts, alfalfa sprouts, romaine lettuce, black pepper, and cookie dough were all recalled in 2010, the Senate still has a full plate. Will food safety legislation S. 510 will hit the Senate floor any time soon? Don’t hold your breath.

Until our elected officials wake up to the seriousness of foodborne illnesses, we suggest you follow these six easy steps.
  •  Only buy freshcut, refrigerated produce that shows no signs of bruising or damage.
  • When transporting your groceries, keep your produce separate from your meat, poultry and seafood at all times.
  • Before consuming any fruits or vegetables, be sure to wash them thoroughly in warm water.       
  •  Only buy pasteurized juices.
  • Refrigerate your produce at a constant 40° F
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with hot water and soap between the       preparation of raw meat, poultry, or seafood and the preparation of food that will not be cooked. 

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