Food Contamination

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases (the World Health Organizations comes up with even higher numbers: 76 million people, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths).

We often hear about food contamination in the news; just recently (Nov 16, 2011), J.M. Smucker Co. announced a peanut butter recall on their website. A few months ago, an outbreak from cantaloupes from Colorado killed 29 people, and is the second deadliest food contamination in the US (the deadliest in the US was from a cheese made in California in 1985).

Although the food is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), that agency lacks the authority to force companies to issue recalls. It instead relies on the industry to issue voluntary recalls, such as those displayed on the left. Additionally, the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a list of active recalls on its website.

In the case of the cantaloupes outbreak, the CDC reported it first, prompting the producer, Jensen Farms, to issue a voluntary recall. The FDA later found contaminated equipment, and contaminated water on the floor that workers spread while moving around. The plant has passed a food safety audit by an outside contractor six days before the outbreak.

In 2007, a nationwide peanut butter contamination led to the recall of 2000 products, and was traced to Peanut Corp. or America, whose processing plant in Georgia had roaches, mold and a leaking roof. The company was sued, but it filed for bankruptcy in 2009. A federal investigation found that the company knowingly shipped contaminated products.

The cause of all this is often ” rogue company or CEO who sees safety violations as a cost of doing business and outmaneuvers federal regulators while Congress dithers.” (USA Today). And some say the FDA simply ignores some violations it is aware of.

For people with diabetes, getting sick by food poisoning just adds another burden to an already delicate situation. There’s little that can be done when purchasing food because it’s not possible to know know if the food is safe to eat or not. Following the news and staying informed about outbreak is among the best actions to do.



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