This morning, I read that the President is set to sign a bill that promises to bring our food regulatory networks into the "21st Century" and improve food safety in the U.S. Like Brett Favre announcing his retirement, I'm throwing this one in the "I'll believe it when I see it" file.
Do I think that our food supply is safe? Well, I don't suffer panic attacks at the thought of a trip to the grocery store. In general, I think most of the food approved for sale is safe to eat, but I also believe it could be safer. Today's news article states, "The new law would not extend to meat, poultry or processed eggs" (click here to read full article). According to a CDC info sheet, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. Coli are the three most common causes of foodborne illnesses in the United States. Common sources of these creepy cooties? If you guessed, "What are meat, poultry, and eggs?" you just won the Daily Double!
How far have we come since 1906, the year Upton Sinclair's expose novel "The Jungle" was published? Just read Dr. Michael Greger's 2006 book "Bird Flu: A Virus Of Our Own Hatching" to find out. Dr. Greger descriptively (and sometimes humorously) outlines the shortcomings of our food regulatory agencies and protocols, and he describes in graphic detail some of the questionable practices of the poultry industry (the full text of his book is available online here). I compared the two works, ironically published exactly 100 years apart, and I am not convinced that the differences between industry standards in the 20th and 21st centuries are very significant.
One of the reasons I write this blog is to celebrate "culinary adventures." I do not consider eating potentially contaminated food to be an "adventure." While most smart producers recognize that selling a product that is 100% safe is essential to a healthy bottom line, some unscrupulous producers will quiver at the thought of required transparency, yet they will be permitted to continue doing business and selling to American consumers. By exempting meat and poultry producers from the new accountability standards, our government fails to effectively protect us.