Friday, May 15, 2009

Someone noticed!

Headline in today's New York Times:

Food Companies Are Placing the Onus for Safety on Consumers

Yup. And they've been doing it more and more for years. Basically, food companies think that there's nothing inherently wrong with selling something that is contaminated as long as they tell you to cook the heck out of it first. And if you don't, that's your problem. It's just too bad that meat cooked as long as necessary to make it "safe" is tough and flavorless. Sorry that homemade mayonnaise is a completely different animal from the stuff in the jar - you'd better not make the good stuff, because we're just assuming you're planning to hard-boil those eggs into safety, so we're going to keep raising chickens in their own feces. It's all on you! Foolish consumer, not using your thermometer - didn't we tell you to always use a thermometer? I'm trying to imagine how one would use a thermometer on, say, the half-inch thick preformed hamburger patties so many people seem to throw on the grill. The New York Times wasn't even able to get the chicken pot pies they were testing to the right temperature without burning them.

I can tell you that from my explorations of the academic literature on food safety, the presumption that food safety is primarily a consumer preparation issue and not a production issue runs very, very deep. So deep, in fact, that I am just pleased as punch that the Times was actually able to see it; it is rare to see past the things we take for granted. But maybe, just maybe, after the salmonella in peanut butter and the contaminated pet food from China and the swine flu and the antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the contaminated tomatoes-whoops-we-mean-jalapenos, people are starting to realize that our food system is not really working. It's about time.


Mary said...

Nice! I appreciate - and support - your assessment of our food-supply system. Something's got to change.

Ben said...

Interesting post there!