The history of government regulation of food safety is one of government watchdogs chasing the horse after it's out of the barn - David A. Kessler, M.D. FDA Commissioner
Prior to the 20th century, no-one conceived of the need for nutrition labeling. Milk was milk. Fish was fish. A cake was sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and little else. There were salt and spices, but for the most part you knew what you were eating just by looking at it.
Okay, things weren't quite that simple. But food was food, until the modern world brought its modern problems, like unethical entrepreneurs who realized they could make more money by making misleading or false claims for their food products, such as misidentifying the ingredients or failing to acknowledge additives.
Although the U.S. government has enacted more and more food-labeling requirements—ingredients list, nutritional content, whether the food items was made or packaged in a facility that also processes potentially serious allergens (e.g., nuts)—a higher percentage than ever of edibles for sale in your town may be unsafe to some degree due to just how many additives, chemicals, and unnatural processes are involved in their manufacture.
A paragon of this problem that made headlines in 2014 was the revelation that bread sold as part of Subway sandwiches contained azodicarbonamide, a chemical compound principally used in the formation of foamed plastics (think yoga mats) but that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes is "approved for use as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner in bread baking," despite the fact that in 2005 the European Union banned azodicarbonamide for use not only in food products themselves but even in plastic products whose intended use has them coming into contact with food.
Whether azodicarbonamide is safe for human consumption is an open question. The EU ban was motivated by the inability by scientists "to conclude whether SEM [a chemical into which azodicarbonamide decomposes upon being heated to a certain temperature] poses a carcinogenic risk to humans." But the fact that Subway, despite standing by azodicarbonamide's safety, bowed to public pressure and removed it from Subway's bread-making process points up just how inessential are many of the ingredients found in today's foodstuffs.
While it is the safety and not the necessity of an ingredient that matters most, one sure thing about all food additives is that they are not tried and true evolutionarily vis-à-vis human consumption. From thousands of years of ingestive experience (not to mention relatively recent scientific research based on that experience), we have a pretty good idea with flour and salt affects human body. We have no such foundation to inform our consumption of azodicarbonamide or any of the many inorganic preservatives, food colorings, etc., that today's Americans consume in mass quantities.
What we do know from scientific study is that many such additives have proven dangerous even along the short time span in which they have been studied. Red Dye No. 2 is a classic case in point. After health issues were linked to certain food-coloring agents in the 1950s, the FDA re-tested all such additives on the market and concluded that Red Dye No. 2 was among those "generally recognized as safe." But 20 years later, in the face of scientific evidence linking the dye to tumor growth, the FDA banned Red Dye No. 2, which Time magazine has since included on its list of the world's "50 Worst Inventions."
While this 20th-century issue dogs us unabated today, a related concern created in the current century is our ability and willingness to tinker with the DNA of what we eat. Because the technology is so new, we simply have no way of knowing whether genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are generally safe for human consumption, whether some are and some are not, or whether it's a bad practice all around to consume foods whose genetic evolution has come about by non-natural means.
But because there is big money to be made, big business hasn't stayed the spread of GMOs in deference to safety. It is generally estimated that somewhere around 70% of processed foods on U.S. supermarket shelves contains GMOs (the Center for Food Safety, for example, puts the figure at about 75%). And as the Union of Concerned Scientists puts it, "[N]ot enough is known [about GMOs. R]esearch on the effects of specific genes has been limited—and tightly controlled by the industry. But we do know of ways in which genetically engineered crops could cause health problems."
Nonetheless, the federal government is midway through passing legislation that would prohibit states from forcing states requiring manufacturers to identify their products as containing GMOs. Not that any state currently has such a law in place. (In July, Vermont is slated become the first state to enact such a requirement.)
Now comes a new GMO that may be coming to a market near you: AquAdvantage Salmon. In short, Aqua Bounty Technologies has spliced a gene from the ocean pout into salmon so that the latter can grow faster. Despite the newness of this technology, the FDA claims it has undertaken "exhaustive and rigorous scientific review [and] arrived at the decision that AquAdvantage salmon is as safe to eat as any non-genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon." And although it is within the purview of the FDA to require manufacturers to label AquAdvantage Salmon as genetically modified, the FDA is not doing so.
So how best to ensure that the food you eat is safe? Growing your own is, of course, the best you can do, because that is the only way you can be more or less certain of all that has transpired at every step in the cultivation of that plant or animal.
For most of us, however, growing our own—especially enough to have the sort of dietary variety we are accustomed to—ranges from impractical to impossible. The next best thing, then, is to obtain as much food as possible from local producers, particularly those certified as organic and/or whose farms, orchards, etc., we can visit. The fewer steps between the cultivation and consumption of your meal, the fewer chances there are for something you want to avoid going down your gullet.
For those of us who feel compelled at to rely at least partly on what we can obtain in supermarkets, a point made by Michael Pollan in his In Defense of Food is well taken: do most of your shopping on the perimeter. This is where you find perishable foods, such as fruits and vegetables. As Pollan notes, this is the "quieter" section of the store, meaning foods that don't have extensive—or even any—labeling. Spinach, oranges, etc., don't need labels because you know exactly what you're getting: spinach, oranges, etc.
Quietness is a good guiding principle when you feel driven to peruse the supermarket's inner aisles. With a little bit of effort, you can still find mass-marketed food products that don't contain anything with real cause for concern. This author's favorite example is the humble Triscuit, which, as Nabisco proudly proclaims, consists of only three ingredients: whole-grain wheat, vegetable oil (soybean or canola oil), and sea salt.
So keep it simple. When it comes to your own safety, the best entity to rely on is you. The fewer variables there are, the safer you're likely to be.
Source: Greggory Moore, Want Food Safety? Keep It Simple, Moore Lowdown, HWN, January 14, 2016.
The new documentary misses that the debate over GMOs isn’t about facts. It’s about values.
The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.
More than two decades ago, an E. coli outbreak linked to Jack in the Box fast food sounded the alarm that we should be paying more attention to how our food is processed. But have we learned anything since?
Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Follow basic food handling safety guidelines. And learn to separate fact from fiction in food safety.
You'll probably see way fewer food recalls in the future.
Plastics are everywhere and so is BPA. Is it a real environmental hazard or just another scare?
Despite advances in medical science, bugs such as E. coli will always be one step ahead of us. Every now and then they will emerge with a vengeance as they spread illness and in extreme cases, death. Always try to find out where your produce comes from and never assume that your food is clean.
The new rules require importers and producers to make sure the food is clean, and provide for outside auditors to check into procedures at foreign food suppliers. Currently, the FDA waits until there are outbreaks and then responds to them — often far too late to save people from eating food that makes them sick.
So what's in your food besides additives that we should be concerned about?
The organic food industry has outgrown the original regulations meant to protect it and its consumers. How 'organic is organic food' is even more important now than in the past.
When you drop a piece of food on the ground, how much time do you really have before it becomes contaminated?
The Chinese melamine scandal of 2008 pointed out the vulnerability of the global food supply. Be vigilant about where your food is coming from. Or better yet, become a locavore
Salmonella outbreaks will continue to occur despite new regulations aimed at minimizing hen and egg exposure. Stay egg smart. Forego those raw eggs in your next Caesar and don't forget to keep your reuseable bags clean!
U.S. agencies recommend temperatures and times far beyond those supported by science.
Some food-safety groups want to go even further and ban the sale of poultry that contains the most dangerous strains of salmonella (rather than simply allowing upper limits and hoping people cook it enough). But the meat industry has pushed back, arguing that this would be impossibly expensive — since salmonella is so ubiquitous. Their position is that consumers need to bear some of the responsibility here.
They say there are no guarantees in life. Unfortunately, that goes for food safety. But there are simple ways we can minimize our risks.
CDC tracks foodborne illnesses and collaborates with state and local health departments and other federal agencies to investigate foodborne outbreaks. CDC’s work provides information to improve food safety.
The Egg Safety Center works to educate consumers on ways to further reduce the incidence of food-borne illness related to egg products; provide producers with the most up-to-date information available; and act as a food safety resource for retailers and food service companies in the U.S.
The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic.
Recalls, Market Withdrawals, and Safety Alerts.
Food, Inc. exposes America's industrialized food system and its effect on our environment, health, economy and workers' rights. Learn about these issues and take action through the Hungry For Change cafeteria and check out the 10 Simple Tips for making positive changes in your eating habits. Learn more about these issues and how you can take action on Takepart.com.
Iwaspoisoned.com is for people who love to eat out but don’t expect to be ill because of it. It is a consumer led website for diners to report suspected food poisoning or bad food experiences. This real time information is shared by consumers, food authorities, restaurants, and industry with one aim – to make eating a safer experience.
OCA's Food Safety Resource Center.
The Cornucopia Institute, through research and investigations on agricultural and food issues, provides needed information to family farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in the good food movement and to the media. We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community — partnered with consumers — backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.
For over 20 years, the ALCAT Test has provided both patients as well as healthcare professionals with a tool to successfully overcome a wide variety of conditions which result from food intolerance and chemical sensitivity.
In Animal Factory, bestselling investigative journalist David Kirby exposes the powerful business and political interests behind large-scale factory farms, and tracks the far-reaching fallout that can contaminate our air, land, and water supply.
barfblog.com is where Drs. Powell, Chapman, Hubbell and assorted food safety friends offer evidence-based opinions on current food safety issues. Opinions must be evidence-based – with references – reliable and relevant. The barfblog authors edit each other, often viciously.
Current information and resources on beef safety issues and best practices.
The goal of this Web site is to share scientific information about BSE and the systems in place to ensure U.S. beef remains the safest in the world.
The CFIA issues public advisories for all food products where consumption of the food could cause serious health consequences. The CFIA classifies recalls based on the level of health risk associated with the food product being recalled.
Why “Stop! Don’t Eat That!” Often Isn’t Good Advice. A number of activist groups have relentlessly sought to scare people away from certain foods and ingredients in accordance with their wide-ranging agendas.
Center for Food Safety uses multifaceted strategies, including legal actions, submission of policy comments and public education, to accomplish its goals of curtailing industrial agricultural production methods that harm human health and the environment, and promoting sustainable alternatives.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest works to improve food safety through many avenues, including lobbying Congress to pass strong food safety legislation to give food safety agencies more authority and more money.
When it comes to health, we all want to do the right thing but half-truths and inconclusive information can clutter an otherwise logical vision. Our EAT CLEANER mission is to set the record straight on what's on our plates and help everyone take matters into their own hands.
According to public health and food safety experts, each year millions of illnesses in this country can be traced to foodborne bacteria. While the likelihood of serious complications is unknown, the Food and Drug Administration estimates that two to three percent of all foodborne illnesses lead to secondary long-term illnesses.
The Food Commission cares about the food we eat and is committed to ensuring good quality food for all. The Food Commission is a national non-profit organisation campaigning for the right to safe, wholesome food.
To protect you from products that are potentially unsafe or that have been incorrectly labeled/packaged, we post recalls to keep you informed, in cooperation with product manufacturers and federal and state agencies.
Iowa State University Extension believes that resources are needed for consumers, foodservice operators, students and educators to access research-based, unbiased information on food safety and quality.
The site is no longer being updated, including the FSnet archives, but remains a vast source of food safety information.
Food Safety News was founded in 2009 to fill a void. At the time, both print and broadcast media were facing consolidation and budget cuts. Dedicated reporters on the food, health and safety beats were being reassigned or seeing their positions disappear altogether.
Marler Clark presents Food Safety News, a daily Web-based newspaper dedicated to reporting on issues surrounding food safety. Here we have created one place that pulls it all together for the food safety community and fills a void in our food safety system. It is about using the Web to put as much available food safety information in one place as is possible.
The Food Safety & Security Summit is the largest and most established food safety & security exposition in North America. It features a full program of intensive educational seminars, workshops, networking events and a trade show exhibition
Food Safety Tech publishes news, technology, trends, regulations, and expert opinions on food safety, food quality, food business and food sustainability.
TheSite's list of favourite food scares. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Food alerts news...
If there is a problem with a food product that means it should not be sold, then it might be 'withdrawn' (taken off the shelves) or 'recalled' (when customers are asked to return the product). The FSA issues information about product withdrawals and recalls to let consumers and local authorities know about problems associated with food.
Food Safety Information Website.
Breaking News on Food Safety & Quality Control.
FoodSafety.gov is the gateway to food safety information provided by government agencies.
Food safety issues related to New Zealand.
HarvestMark is the leading fresh food traceability solution from YottaMark. More than a billion produce packages have been enabled with HarvestMark Codes to speed response to suspected recall events and deliver on-demand product information throughout the supply chain.
Plain truth from the cattle rancher who won't eat meat.
iPura is the world's first food safety brand, devoted to making food safer and cleaner for you and your family.
Providing commentary on food poisoning outbreaks & litigation.
Supporting the research community by collecting, organizing and disseminating food safety research information
Ensuring a safe and suitable food supply is a public health priority for any country. In New Zealand nearly 80% of the food we produce is exported, providing just over half the country's merchandise trade underpinning our economy.
For 60 years, NSF has been committed to public health, safety, and protection of the environment. While focusing on food, water, indoor air, and the environment, NSF develops national standards and provides learning opportunities.
Quality assurance & food safety
To provide better service in alerting the American people to unsafe, hazardous or defective products, six federal agencies with vastly different jurisdictions have joined together to create www.recalls.gov -- a "one stop shop" for U.S. Government recalls.
I am a professional food microbiologist. I created this blog to help ordinary folk and food manufacturers understand food safety so that we can reduce the incidence of food mediated illness. I would like it to become a resource for teachers in schools.
Honey bee populations have been in alarming decline since 2006. Widespread use of a new class of toxic pesticides, neonicotinoids, is a significant contributing factor. In addition to killing bees outright, research has shown that even low levels of these dangerous pesticides impair bees' ability to learn, to find their way back to the hive, to collect food, to produce new queens, and to mount an effective immune response.
T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study created a movement in the way people consider their diets. While the Internet features many great meeting places for the plant-based community, there has yet to be a one stop shop. The China Study Community website launched with the hopes of filling this niche and becoming the leading source of news for the plant-based community.
The Organic & Non-GMO Report is the only monthly newsletter that provides information you need to respond to the challenges of genetically modified (GM) foods.
Born on Earth Day 2007, The Daily Green earned a min Best of the Web award for Best New Site, and has since grown into one of the most trusted sources on the Web for news and information about going green. Our mission is to broaden the audience for earth-friendly living by showing how going green is relevant to everyone.
Policy and Economics From a Public Interest Perspective
Rapid sharing of information to protect food safety and public health around the globe.