Thursday, September 30, 2010

Trust In Manufacturers, Retailers and Supermarkets Ill-Placed & Ill-Advised

By Theodora Filis
More than 60,000 Americans are hospitalized by food poisoning every year. We all place our faith in manufacturers, designers, marketers, and retailers, trusting that the products we buy are safe. Sometimes, that trust is broken when a these products cause injury or even death.
After yesterday’s post on UK Progressive‘s Facebook page “Firm fined after dead mouse found in loaf of bread” caused more than a few upset stomach’s and tainted remarks, it was decided a review of these cases was in order.
According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Center for Disease Control, there are approximately 200 known diseases that can be transmitted through food. These diseases result in nearly 76 million illnesses and 5,000 deaths in America each year. When a food-borne illness is the result of unsanitary restaurant conditions, improper packaging, or insufficient supervision of staff hygiene, it makes food poisoning cases even more tragic.
380,000 pounds of deli meat was recalled nationally last month for containing food-borne illnesses, one of the most common reasons people visit the emergency room. An estimated 76 million cases of food-borne disease occur each year in the United States. Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths related to food-borne diseases each year.
One of the worst and most potentially fatal food-borne diseases is Listeria monocytogenes. It is one of the most virulent food-borne pathogens with 20 to 30 percent of clinical infections resulting in death. Though approximately 2,500 people contract the disease each year, 500 of them die from it.
In 2006, E. coli found in Dole baby spinach caused hundreds of illnesses, 103 hospitalizations and three deaths, according to the Consumers Union.
Massive packaged food recall hit the US in March of this year when Salmonella was detected in dozens of packaged food products after a common flavor enhancer, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, was found to be tainted with Salmonella. As a result, nearly a hundred types of everyday prepared food products as well as organic, vegetarian and vegan foods were recalled, and more affected products are likely to surface. Click here for a full list of recalled packaged foods.

Packaged salads labeled “pre-washed” or “triple washed” might not be very clean at all, according to a recent report. Government standards may not be enough to protect consumers from tainted vegetables. Even if mixed salads in bags, clamshells and other packages don’t contain deadly E. coli or Salmonella, they could still contain harmful contaminants that can reach the greens before and even during their pre-washing, a Consumers Union study found.
In a study by Consumer Reports’ parent company, 39% of more than 200 “ready-to-eat” salad samples were found to contain coli-forms usually found in the digestive tract of animals and humans, according to an article in the March issue of Consumer Reports Magazine.
More than half a billion eggs were recalled in August over concerns they were contaminated with Salmonella, but now the industry is arguing that consumers may be to blame.
A spokesperson for the United Egg Producers, a group that represents the nation’s egg farmers, told USA Today that all of the consumers who have so far reported being sick from the recalled eggs ate them without cooking the eggs properly.
The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service and the FDA are trying to improve product traceability, both forward and back, in the production chain, with the goal of being able to respond quicker to outbreaks, said Caleb Weaver, USDA’s press secretary.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants his agency to “further reduce the incidence of food-borne pathogens and the number of food-borne-related deaths to zero,” Weaver added.
At the top of Food & Water Watch’s safety wish list for 2010 is that FDA be given greater authority and resources to regulate the safety of both domestic and imported food, said Patty Lovera, the group’s food team director.
The organization called for more frequent inspections of domestic food facilities, saying that some of the Food Safety and Inspection Service districts have been running double-digit vacancy rates for years.