Stephen Rushmore Jr.
I read the New York Times piece in my local Sunday paper and am copying it here, as it is contains an alarming revelation – fresh produce now rivals meat and fish as a source of food poisoning. Paul raises an interesting question: What can we as a community do to improve the safety of the food we eat – at home, on the road and in the buffet line?
Food-Borne Illness From Produce on the Rise
By MARIAN BURROS
Published: November 23, 2003
To consumers who took nutritionists’ advice seriously and began eating more fruits and vegetables, word that fresh green onions could carry the hepatitis virus came as a shock.
Yet the recent outbreaks of hepatitis A linked to contaminated scallions imported from Mexico, which have killed three people and sickened hundreds, are only the latest examples in a sharp rise of food-borne illness from fruits and vegetables. In 2000, the last year for which information is complete, there were almost as many reported cases of food poisoning from produce as there were from beef, poultry, fish and eggs combined, according to an advocacy group’s compilation of government data.
"It’s a huge problem and not one easy to solve," said Dr. Glen Morris, chairman of the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a former Agriculture Department official. "Produce is emerging as an important cause of food-borne illness in this country."
Scientists and some government officials say illnesses have risen sharply because people are eating more fresh produce and want it year-round, leading to an increase in imports from countries with less stringent sanitary standards.
And until recent years, produce was the last place investigators looked for food-borne illness. Less than 2 percent of the produce that crosses the border is inspected for disease-causing bacteria, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for the safety of produce.
When the F.D.A. tested 1,003 samples of fresh produce imported from 21 countries in 1999 and 2000, 4.4 percent were found to have harmful bacteria. Of 959 domestic samples, 1.3 percent tested positive. Dr. Bob Brackett, director of food safety and security for the agency, said the results were statistically insignificant because of the study design. But some scientists disagree. "While the study design may not have been optimal," Dr. Morris said, "the differences are striking given the relatively large overall sample size."
Dr. Robert V. Tauxe, an epidemiologist with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "The American diet has really shifted, and we are eating more that is minimally processed and getting it from a broader variety of different sources." He added: "There has been an increase in the volume of production, so when something goes wrong it goes wrong on a bigger scale. It’s a difficult trade-off if you want to have fresh produce in the off-season."
In 2000, there were 3,981 illnesses reported from outbreaks linked to contaminated produce, while 4,025 people were made ill by contaminated beef, poultry, seafood and eggs, according to figures compiled by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group that frequently criticizes the food industry. The group used statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and state health departments, along with news media reports verified by pu,21,48342.004,1,7373,220.127.116.11
48345,48342,48342,2003-11-24 04:20:39,RE: Food Safety”
Buffets Scare me … too easy for the guy at the head of the line
to give you his Hepatitis A … [;)][V][:(!][xx(][xx(][xx(][xx(]
I’d feel safer at the Wafflehouse, with second hand smoke, and them CARB’s in them
smothered, covered, layered, & Shingled hashbrowns [8D]
Most and especially all major restaurants buy their produce from a supplier who in turn gets it from a food terminal in a large city. This actually made it easy to trace those green onions to the source. I guess this is one of the things that have to be dealt with since everyone wants everything 12 months a year, white raspberries in February? no probs. This is only the second time I have heard of produce being responsible for serious contamination.(there were strawberries a few years back) With produce there is no way you can tell anything. Your only recourse is to wash everything well.
As far as handwashing and personal sanitation in the kitchen one answer is to hire only trained and certified people. The food business being the low paid and often poorly managed place that it is, well don’t expect anything soon till people are paid a living wage and benefits.
Cold chicken on a buffet would scare me though, I’d be on the phone to the local health unit and they should investigate, or next time in line just say loudly "god, cold chicken again!!"
In light of recent events in PA, TN GA and NC, what leverage if any does roadfood.com have with improving safety conditions within the restaurant industry.
We are at hostage within the SOM of the restaurant industry in regards to the handwashing that is required. How do you inforce that??? They buy from the cheapest bidder and a class example is the green onions. Did they save money by savings from the grower using sludge and even perhaps human sludge where hep a is prevalent?
On another thread, I indicated that eating at a buffet was a crap shoot "no pun intended", it really is. At Ryan’s, I recentently experienced fried chicken hot on the outside and stone cold on the inside. I brought this to the attention twice and they informed me that they had addressed the problem was resolved and they would send me a certificate addressed by the regional manager for a dinner for six. It did not occur. That was really no big deal as I was concerned for safety.
In addition, I observed people coughing over food, hand picking food, eating in line and etc.
I sorta like buffets due to my Atkins deal, but the risk is there.
My question is that roadfood.com having thousands of posters should address concerns in mass to all major restaurants would have an impact. I do not know but I would sincerely appreciate your thoughts.
Paul E. Smith
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