Thanksgiving is over, yesterday’s meal is mostly digested, and you are packing up turkey sandwiches for the trip to the mall for so-called black Friday deals. But before you go, please consider the following (without throwing up): the safety of the foods we eat every day, from turkeys to fish to vegetables, is increasingly considered suspect, with giant food recalls becoming a frightening norm. You can even track recent food recalls at the foodsafety.gov website. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food-related diseases affect tens of millions of people and kill thousands every year.
Just last August, for example, the food conglomerate Cargill recalled 36 million pounds of ground turkey meat (that would have made 144 million quarter-pound turkey burgers) after the meat was linked to at least one death and more than 100 cases of illness from Salmonella Heidelburg, a strain resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics. This was believed to be the third largest food recall on record, according to the USDA’s Office of Public Health Science.
We all want to eat food that is safe and treated humanely, and many Americans are turning towards organically raised livestock, poultry, and produce for both health and moral reasons. Others have become vegetarian and vegan for similar reasons. Whatever your food proclivities are, we can all agree that our food sources should be safe.
So in the coming weeks and months we here at The Public’s Health will explore the sometimes-dangerous relationship between animal safety and treatment, general food safety, and our health. Upcoming posts will look at the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry, conditions on the factory farm, the spraying of pesticides on our produce, and the concentration of mercury and other toxins in the fish we eat. We’ll also consider possible solutions to these problems such as the local and organic food movement as well as the persistent challenges we face, including potential cutbacks in food safety.