My partner eyed me sternly when I announced that my next book was going to be an investigative look at pork production. “Does this mean that I’ll have to give up eating bacon?” she asked.
Deadly outbreaks of E. coli and Salmonella in spinach and cantaloupes, antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” connected to pork and chicken production, potent drugs that are banned in the United States in imported shrimp and catfish: Nothing has the potential to destroy your appetite quite as thoroughly as writing about industrial food production or living with someone who does. Somehow, I have remained omnivorous, more or less. But there are only five things that I absolutely refuse to eat. Read more
In a blockbuster-worthy hearing, complete with partisan bickering, a photo slideshow, and a witness pleading the Fifth, Congress yesterday grilled the executives responsible for two Iowa egg farms linked to over 1,600 illnesses.
Though Jack DeCoster, who owns the company at the center of the investigation, apologized to anyone “who may have been sickened by eating our eggs,” he and his son, Peter, who now runs the Iowa facility, were met with tough questioning from lawmakers. Read more
Right now people are a little fearful of eggs, and who can blame them? The recent salmonella outbreak that resulted in the recall of half-a-billion eggs and sickened more than a thousand people across the country has left people wondering just how safe our food supply is. As a nutritionist, people ask me about this a lot—and what’s most important to understand is that all eggs are not created equal. The industrial food industry has taken our foods and made many of them unsafe. Not only this, but the nutritional value of our foods is intricately tied into this same industry. Which leads to another question I often hear: What are the healthiest foods? This should be an easy question to answer, but with the industrial food complex wrecking havoc on our food supply, things have become far more complicated. Read more
Until a year ago, I barely took note when news of another contaminated food outbreak scrawled across my television screen. But everything changed almost exactly a year ago, when our then three-year-old son, Jacob, was poisoned with Salmonella. Read more
Consumer Reports’ latest tests of packaged leafy greens found bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination, in some cases, at rather high levels. The story appears in the March 2010 issue of Consumer Reports and is also available free online. Consumers Union today also issued a report [PDF] urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set safety standards for greens. FDA food safety legislation pending in the Senate, and passed last summer by the House of Representatives, would require the FDA to create just such safety standards. Read more
Consumer Reports’ latest test of fresh, whole broilers bought in 22 states reveals that two-thirds of birds tested harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of food-borne disease. The report reveals that organic “air-chilled” broilers were among the cleanest and that Perdue was found to be the cleanest of the brand-name chicken. Tyson and Foster Farms chickens were found to be the most contaminated. The report is available, free online (note, you have to click through the side bars to the left of the story) and in the January 2010 issue of the magazine. Read more
Yesterday, more than 20 victims of foodborne illness, including surviving family members of those killed by contaminated food, gathered at the U.S. Capitol to share their stories, meet with legislators and voice support for legislation to reform our nation’s food safety system. These victims and their families urged Congress and the Obama administration to pass food safety legislation that will improve consumer protection. The families came together as part of the Make Our Food Safe Campaign, launched by major consumer and food safety groups in an effort to put a human face on the food safety crisis in the U.S. and to set a list of priorities for food safety reform. Read more
Whenever the media reports an outbreak of Avian flu or Ebola, I invariably receive a flurry of panicked calls from patients wondering whether their cough or chill heralds San Francisco’s first case of that disease. While I can never be certain, geography alone allows me to offer a hefty dose of reassurance. Recent reports of salmonella-tainted peanut butter have generated a similar barrage of patient calls from anyone experiencing a stomach grumble. Hopefully most of these calls represent nothing more than dyspepsia or a passing virus, however I feel less confident offering blanket reassurances. Read more