Food Safety's Dirty Little Secret

food safetyAfter the first reports of a salmonella outbreak this spring, it took a full 89 days before jalapeño and serrano peppers came under suspicion as the culprit. During that period, more than 1,440 victims were hospitalized.

Even as bacterial outbreaks have become more high-profile, and the financial fallout from recalls more severe, the government has been handing off many food-safety responsibilities to private industry. Food safety today is a business.

For most Americans, the FDA is still the public face of food safety. But in reality, oversight of farms and food plants has gradually changed hands. There is now a cottage industry of third-party companies calling themselves "food-safety consultants."

This has created some alarming potential gaps. There's no certification system for these third-party inspectors. Critics worry that retailers hire these companies not just to ensure food quality -- but also as a defense mechanism to help protect their public image in case something goes wrong.

And while tomato and spinach growers are audited heavily because they've had so many problems in the past, other crops, such as broccoli and cauliflower, are scrutinized less. Many growers are living in a continuing state of denial about whether they should be doing anything.

There's also the concern that these efforts could actually be making food less safe. In some cases, a grower needs to pay for audits from six or seven companies just to satisfy the demands of all of its different buyers. The overlapping attention might help eliminate problems, but it's also costly. For slaughter facilities squeezed by rising costs, surreptitiously cutting out E. coli tests has been one of their money-saving tactics.

To get a further sense of the problem, consider that today about 80 percent of the United State’s seafood and slightly less than half of its fresh fruits are imported from overseas. But the FDA inspects only about 1 percent. Meanwhile, it would cost the FDA more than $3.5 billion to inspect every one of the roughly 250,000 domestic and foreign food facilities just once.

In reality, industry insiders say the FDA is lucky if it gets to the same facility once every three years.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Last year a survey of 2,500 Americans found that 93 percent were “as concerned or more concerned” about contracting food-borne illnesses than they were the year before. Considering all the food scares we’ve had since then, one can only conclude that this feeling would still hold strong in 2008.

That there is a need for a major overhaul of the U.S. food system, including food safety, goes without saying. One government agency cannot possibly monitor all of the food being produced in and imported into the United States. A private sector of food-safety inspectors sounds like a solution, but what are the odds of finding truly unbiased inspectors that have no ties to any of the major food industries?

 Not very good.

As Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, said, “They [The FDA] don’t have the resources, the authority or the political will to really protect consumers from unsafe food.”

And therein lies the problem. Unfortunately, many of the FDA’s “solutions” to keep your food safe are only contributing to the degradation of the food supply.

Food “Safety” Measures that are Destroying Your Food

Now that bacteria and disease outbreaks have become commonplace among the U.S. food supply, the FDA has taken that as a carte blanche to nuke your meat and produce. Rather than trying to clean up the food processing facilities or the conditions in which animals and produce are raised for food, they’ve decided to allow the filthiness to continue and instead irradiate the food.

Never mind that irradiation breaks up the cell walls of your food, kills beneficial enzymes and creates harmful free radicals. Not to mention that some of the compounds created by the process are known to be cancer-causing while others have never been seen or studied before.

Even the survey I quoted earlier, the one that found most Americans to be concerned about food-borne illnesses, is not without an agenda. It was conducted by TNS, a market research firm, but commissioned by National Pasteurized Eggs.

Why do you think a pasteurized egg company would want to be involved in this study?

To make you afraid.

And to make you think you need their pasteurized eggs to be safe. Apparently it’s working, as sales of their pasteurized eggs increased 43 percent in the last year -- a fact that astounds me considering how much healthier raw eggs are.

You see, food safety is a real concern.

But if you resort to only eating food that has been altered by high heat or radiation, because you’re afraid of bacteria, you are trading one evil for another. True, you may avoid living bacteria (then again, it’s no guarantee), but you will still be exposed to the dead bacteria. What many fail to realize is that pasteurization does nothing to remove the bacteria, it only kills live bacteria. So the dead bacteria are still present and can trigger disease reactions.

Additionally, pasteurization depletes the food vitality and beneficial nutrients, enzymes, biophotons and other components that are crucial to your health -- and which are ONLY present in fresh, unadulterated food.

Let me say this one more time: the solution to improving food safety does not lie in irradiation, pasteurization or any other technological advance. Quite the contrary, it involves reverting back to the ways of past generations.

Finding Safe Food in a Polluted World

There are still sources of clean, pure food to be found if you know where to look -- and it’s not your supermarket.

As much as possible, try to get your food from a local farmer who still grows food on a small scale. Talk to him or her about the growing conditions, use of pesticides and chemicals (there should be none), health of the animals and their access to pasture, and any other concern on your mind. A reputable farmer will be happy to address your concerns in exchange for your business and good recommendation.

You can also find safe, fresh and whole foods by following these tips:

• The FDA currently requires that irradiated foods include labeling with either the statement "treated with radiation" or "treated by irradiation" and the international symbol for irradiation, the radura. That might change in the future, but for now avoid all foods that contain these labels.

• Choose organic foods. Certified organic foods may not be irradiated (and they also may not contain genetically modified ingredients or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers).

Buy foods locally. Get to know a farmer near you (or join a food coop with access to one). This way, you’ll know how your food is grown.

• Grow your own food. If you have the space, a small garden can produce plenty of produce for your family.

• Clean your produce appropriately. Washing produce with water is virtually ineffective, but there is a way to safely remove contaminants. In the last few months I learned of the most amazing system that cleans produce by soaking the food in water saturated with ozone. The ozone is a very potent oxidizer and it will not only selectively kill all the microbes on your produce BUT, more importantly for most of us, it will break down all the pesticides that are on the outside of the vegetables. That is the primary reason I use it.

Ozone, unlike radiation or chemicals, will not damage the vitality of the produce you are going to consume. This is FAR safer than soaking your produce in bleach, which while it will work, is clearly toxic to you. Ozone can be toxic if you breathe it in large quantities, but when it is dissolved in water and acting on the vegetables, it is completely harmless.

The name of the product is the Lotus Sanitizing System. You can pick up this handy, device at Amazon for a little over $100

If you own a large commercial food operation I would suggest contacting the company directly, as they have larger units that are now successfully used in many restaurants.