How Safe Is Imported Food?
In the wake of some food safety scares, experts offer advice for worried consumers.
Country-of-Origin Labeling continued...
Critics call country-of-origin labeling a logistical nightmare, especially
if manufacturers must list multiple countries for a single product. But a
recent Consumer Reports poll found that 92% of Americans surveyed
supported country-of-origin labeling.
Will knowing a food's origins automatically improve safety? Even U.S.
products have had recent contamination problems, such as E. coli-tainted
spinach from California and botulism in canned chili sauce from a Georgia
"It's just the beginning. It's not going to solve our food system
problems," Lovera says of labeling. "But if consumers are looking at
the news and they see story after story about China or somewhere else, they can
say, 'You know what? I'm just going to take a break because I'm worried about
Reducing Personal Risk
Right now, can consumers do anything to reduce their risk of harm from
tainted food? There are no easy answers, but experts offer these
Buy well-known brands. "Because of these recent scares, a lot of
very well-known manufacturers who have a great deal of stake in their brand
names are now taking a very close look at where they're getting their
ingredients," Waldrop says. "They have so much money invested in their
brand and they don't want to see their brand hurt."
Purchase locally grown produce as much as possible. For
example, Lovera says, "If you go to a farmers market, you can ask questions
about how people raised it and see if you're comfortable with that. And it's
easier to trace back if something goes wrong."
Buy seafood only from reputable vendors. "Go to a grocer that you
trust and start striking up a conversation with the person behind the seafood
counter," Fiorillo suggests. Ask how to prepare seafood safely to prevent
illness, he adds.
Check on recalls. The government-run web site www.recall.gov provides information on food
recalls and safety alerts.