15 Ways to Make Your Food Safer
Food Safety Strategies From the Market to the Table
Tainted animal feed. Spinach scares. Peanut butter recalls. Food safety has
been big news lately, which is making many people think twice about what's on
First, the facts. The FDA says some U.S. hogs, poultry, and
farmed fish recently ate animal feed containing Chinese ingredients tainted
with an industrial chemical called melamine. But the FDA says people who ate
meat from those animals are likely at "very low" risk of
melamine-related health problems.
The source of the
salmonella outbreak in Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter has been
found, and maker ConAgra plans to start shipping Peter Pan Peanut Butter to
retailers this summer. And Last fall's E. coli outbreak in
fresh bagged spinach is over.
Despite the spate of food safety snafus, America's food safety system works,
CDC senior epidemiologist Linda Demma, PhD, tells WebMD.
"I certainly don't think it's broken. I think we can improve, but I
don't think it's broken," says Demma, who works in the enteric disease
epidemiology branch of the CDC's division of foodborne, bacterial, and mycotic
"All the food safety agencies are working very hard to collaborate and
come up with some ideas on how to improve the meat and produce industry as a
whole," Demma says, adding that food industries "are being very
In light of food safety issues, the FDA recently created a new FDA job --
assistant commissioner for food protection -- and appointed David Acheson, MD,
FRCP, to fill that post. Earlier this year, the FDA issued new guidelines for
the fresh-cut produce industry, which market packaged, minimally processed
fresh fruits and vegetables.
While food safety controls are being tweaked, here are 15 tips on making
your food safer, from the market to the table.
1. Consider your source. Eating locally grown food is
becoming more popular, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's safer than
"Just because you grow it in a farm down the street, it doesn't make it
any safer or worse than any other produce that you get," Suresh Pillai,
PhD, tells WebMD.
Pillai is a professor of food safety and environmental microbiology at Texas
Locally grown food "is pretty much on par with what you would find in a
supermarket," in terms of food safety, Demma agrees. "Of course, there
[are] other reasons to buy and eat locally," she says.
At farmers markets, you may get the chance to meet and talk with the people
who produced your food.
Farmers markets have become more common, with 4,385 U.S. farmers markets in
2006, up from 1,755 farmers markets in 1994, according to the U.S. Department
of Agriculture (USDA).
Eating food shipped from overseas? The melamine-tainted animal feed
ingredients came from China. But that doesn't mean that all imported food is