Recent Articles About Food Safety

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

Fertilizing crops with biosolids—a combination of human, commercial, and industrial wastes otherwise known by critics as “sewage sludge”—is a common but controversial practice.

On the one hand, municipalities argue, it is much more environmentally sound to recycle nutrients that would otherwise be sent to landfills. The use of these fertilizers also cuts down on the amount of man-made fertilizers needed to boost crops and keep soils healthy. Read more

Salad greens have been getting a bad wrap in the news lately. Not only are pre-cut greens notoriously risky from a food safety perspective (Since the 2006 E. coli outbreak, all bagged lettuce now gets triple washed, but a 2010 Consumer Reports study says that spinach and other greens still harbor dangerous bacteria), but they also require considerably more water and other resources than head lettuce. Worst of all: A great deal of it goes to waste. According to the Washington Post, as much as 1 billion pounds go to waste every year. Read more

International trade agreements may seem like a long way from what you’re making for dinner. But the two agreements on the table this spring–the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)—could have a profound impact on the food we eat.

The agreements have been negotiated behind closed doors and could be submitted to Congress soon. In the case of the TPP, it could even happen this week. If Congress approves what’s called “fast-track” authority, the agreements would have to be voted on as is–without any changes. And just this morning, Reuters reported that the U.S. lost its appeal to the WTO for repeal of country of origin labeling (COOL) requirements for meat.

Civil Eats spoke to experts to find out what consumers need to know about these agreements. Read more

Chances are high that you or someone in your family has at least one piece of nonstick cookware in the kitchen. And if you eat take-out food, you’ve probably encountered packaging treated to resist grease, oil, and moisture. What this means is that it’s extremely likely that highly fluorinated chemicals—which are specially engineered to create these durable coatings—are part of your everyday life. Read more

You wouldn’t eat the tiny plastic fibers that come off your fleece jacket, would you? Research released last week suggests we might be eating the fish that do. The study–the first of its kind–found that Great Lakes fish are swallowing micro-plastic fibers [PDF] that have found their way into the waste stream from washing machines. And the fish that ingest them include species sought after by Great Lakes anglers, among them: brown trout, cisco–also known as “lake herring”–and perch. Read more

At first glance, writing an exposé on the pork industry might seem outside Ted Genoways’ wheelhouse. He’s the author of two books of poetry and has  penned a biography of Walt Whitman—not necessarily what one expects from someone writing about modern meat production in the U.S.

But Genoways, who has written on factory farming for Mother Jones and is the grandson of a former packinghouse worker from Omaha, Nebraska, brings his interests together by focusing on working class Midwestern life. His newest book, The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food, is a chilling indictment of today’s pork industry told through the story of one company, Hormel Foods. Essentially, it’s The Jungle for the modern era.

We recently spoke with Genoways about his new book, Hormel, and the fact that much of our food has become less safe over time. Read more