Is Your Food Still Safe to Eat? -Dollars & Sense by David Uffington

By on August 12, 2011

In light of the government’s likely cuts in funding for food-safety surveillance, it’s more important than ever to be alert to recalls and news about food-borne illnesses. The Microbiological Data Program, sure to be axed from the annual budget, was set up in 2001 to test thousands of fruit and vegetables, many times more than are tested by the Food and Drug Administration. Results of those tests are then shared immediately with the FDA, and if necessary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Given the recent outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupe and bean burgers, and E. coli in cheese and sprouts, it falls to us to be more vigilant on food safety, especially if some safeguards are going away. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that the food your family eats is safe.

   If you haven’t set up your computer for automatic food-safety alerts, do it now. Go to the FDA website at and sign up for email or SMS/text message notices.

   If you have a farmer’s market near you, inquire about how the crops are grown and fertilized. Make sure any manure comes only from herbivore animals, not carnivores, which can contain the very parasites and bacteria that you’re trying to avoid. Remember that “organic” means no antibiotics or synthetic ingredients, but it doesn’t completely guarantee your safety.

   Grow your own. Many localities now allow a small number of chickens to be kept, even in urban yards. A half-dozen chickens will provide enough eggs for your family … and if you’re so inclined, the occasional Sunday dinner. Get expert advice and study the feeds you provide. Know where it came from. Feed can be contaminated by a variety of bacteria, including salmonella. The FDA also reports on chicken-feed pellets and had one recall last year because of metal fragments. Whatever the chicken eats ends up in your eggs.

With vegetables, you can control the process from start to finish. Consult your county extension office for advice on soils and any additives needed to bring it up to par. Keep pets away from your garden and the source of water you use on the plants. (Whatever is in the water is taken into the plant and can’t just be washed off.)

Check for information on recalls and food handling safety.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.