Above: A screen shot of the Food Safety page of msnbc.com.
One click on the “Food Safety” link on msnbc.com produced a surprise that I had never expected. At the left center of the page was a brief paragraph with the title “Products recalled over concerns about broccoli,” and below the paragraph followed about 50 linked titles that all announced recalls to various food products. From broccoli to beef patties to cheese, so many different products are recalled that spinach no longer takes the center stage as a contaminated food product. This surge in the number of contaminated food products surprised me immensely, and it raised the interesting question of whether this surge is due to tighter government regulations and more thorough inspections on food safety or due to worsening food production procedures in recent years. More importantly, are more consumers sickened by contaminated food and the reason these incidents don’t attract national headlines is because food poisoning is much more common nowadays than several years ago? Are we moving into a period where some food, especially fresh produce, can no longer be produced in a clean environment? All these questions beg for answers as they are important to the health of consumers.
Although the bacterium E. coli, especially the serotype O157:H7, used to be the most prominent bacterium causing food poisoning in humans, other bacterium such as salmonella and listeria are also finding their way into the food supply. Apart from bacteria, larger and more visible objects such as glass shards and even “extra protein,” to put it in the words of one consumer, in the form of a dead frog inside a bag of mixed veggie, had become food contaminants that endanger the health of consumers.