Recent Articles About Food Safety

Elsie Herring stays indoors on the days the industrial hog farm next door sprays manure from a lagoon-like holding pit across the field that ends eight feet from her kitchen window. Because a filthy mist coats her property if the wind is blowing from the west, Herring has learned to avoid activities like sitting on her porch, grilling outside, hanging laundry on the line, opening windows, and drinking water from the well.

Herring lives in Duplin County, North Carolina, on a plot of land her family has owned for more than a century. Located in the eastern part of the state, Duplin contains more than 18.5 million confined animals, including 2.3 million hogs. In Herring’s part of the state, pigs outnumber people almost 40 to one. Read more

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the chemicals that get added to our food and sprayed on or around it while it’s growing. But science shows that even if we removed the pesticides and additives, we’re all eating and drinking a number of other chemicals with unintended consequences every day.

Flame retardants known as PBDEs are turning up regularly in meat and poultry and other animal products, mercury is in now most wild seafood, and phthalates are turning up in fast food—just to name a few. Read more

Five friends wanted to make hand-crafted organic hummus, so they enlisted brothers, sisters, and neighbors in multiple rounds of taste-tests until they had three perfect recipes. In 2011, they launched Hope Hummus and began selling it at farmers’ markets in and around Boulder, Colorado.

Hope Hummus had no problem providing fresh hummus to customers in Colorado well before the dip spoiled. But quickly, the company’s Spicy Avocado Hummus gained fans, and the brand grew. The challenge came when they needed to supply grocers in California and Oregon. How could they make fresh, nutritious food and safely serve customers beyond their own area code? Read more

Most busy Americans have a powerful push-pull relationship with fast food. While they may know the facts—most fast food is high in fat, salt, and sugar and can lead to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity—they still eat a lot of it. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, eight in 10 Americans report eating at fast food restaurants at least monthly, with almost half said they eat it at least weekly. Read more

The news that toxic heavy metals have been detected at high levels around two glass factories located in residential neighborhoods has rattled the city of Portland, Oregon. These metals—primarily arsenic, cadmium, and chromium—are used to color glass and were found in moss samples collected around the city over the past few years and also in air sampling, the results of which were first made public early this year. (Update: New soil tests released this week show heavy metals generally low and garden soil and produce safe to eat, say Oregon health and environmental authorities. Thorough hand and produce washing are recommended and further test results will be forthcoming.) Read more

California is a major agricultural state. It’s also a major oil-producing state. And never the twain shall meet, right?

Not quite. In fact, there’s a big overlap in some areas of the state that are prime for both activities, mainly in the Central Valley. Besides shared geography, the two industries share something else: water. For about 20 years, oil companies like Chevron have provided millions of gallons of recycled oil field wastewater containing trace amounts of chemicals as irrigation water to farms that prize the reliable supply. But because of California’s severe, ongoing drought, reuse of oil wastewater for farm irrigation has expanded—as has scrutiny of the practice. Read more

On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will withdraw its approval for three chemicals used to make grease, stain, and water repelling food packaging and consider banning seven food additives used in both “artificial” and “natural” flavors. While the news may have gotten lost during the first post-holiday weekday, it’s worth noting. And it raises much larger questions about one of the agencies with the most control over the safety of what we eat. Here’s what you need to know. Read more

This story was written and originally published by Reveal, a new public radio show and podcast from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Learn more at

This looks like a humble black work boot with a filthy white sock over it. But it actually is a secret weapon in the fight against salmonella, a microscopic bacteria that can make people sick.Chicken Feces and Worker Wearing Boot

It’s one of many things farmers in Denmark have started doing since surging human illnesses prompted the country to no longer tolerate the bacteria in its chicken. It’s pretty simple: Danish farmers wear the socks over their boots when they’re in chicken houses to gather samples of the bacteria in the chickens’ poop. Read more

Food forests and edible landscapes are popping up in cities all over the nation, leading to a kind of urban foraging renaissance. But should foragers be worried about lead and other heavy metals in the food they’re finding?

Researchers at Wellesley College recently teamed up with Boston’s League of Urban Canners (LUrC) to find out. LUrC members frequently forage for food in Boston-area fruit orchards, and when one of their members tested high for blood lead levels recently, the group turned to Dan Brabander, a geoscience professor at Wellesley College, for answers. Read more

If you buy bread in Toronto, Paris, or Rio de Janeiro, it cannot by law contain the chemical potassium bromate. Yet if you eat baked goods in the U.S., you may be eating this substance unknowingly. Potassium bromate is used to whiten and strengthen dough, to reduce mixing time and enhance rising—but it was also classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a possible human carcinogen in 1999 after it was found to cause kidney and thyroid tumors in lab rats. Read more