Since the Wendy’s food scare in 2005, in which a woman claimed to have found a finger in her bowl of chili, the public has grown increasingly aware of food safety. Although the Wendy’s food scare was a hoax, Americans have reason to remain concerned about the safety of their food.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne illness causes 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) to become sick each year. 128,000 require hospitalization, and 3,000 die of foodborne illnesses. The leading causes of these deaths are the pathogens Salmonella, Listeria, Toxoplasma, and the norovirus.
Recently, several companies have recalled thousands of food products found to be potentially unsafe for consumers. In Georgia, Suzanna’s Kitchen recalled 35,800 pounds of breaded chicken that could contain plastic pieces, according to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The plastic is most likely from the bags that the nuggets were contained in before their production. Cantina Foods of New York also recalled 2,375 pounds of cheese and beef products because they were produced without any federal inspections.
According to CNN, the number of foodborne illnesses increased between 2011 and 2012. The number of illnesses jumped from 718 in 2011 to 1,035 in 2012, which was an increase of 44%.
The high incidence of foodborne illnesses can, in part, be attributed to the FDA’s lack of funding. CNN reports that the FDA does not have the required funding to inspect imported foods, which make up 15% of the food and two-thirds of the vegetables and fruits that Americans eat. The FDA was able to inspect only 153 of the 189,000 registered food facilities located abroad in 2008.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011, “giving the Food and Drug Administration…more power to be proactive holding food suppliers responsible for foodborne illness outbreak,” according to CNN. However, much of the law’s regulations have not yet been implemented, leaving consumers at risk of eating unsafe food.
To prevent foodborne illness, the CDC recommends washing your hands before handling food, rinsing all produce, and cooking all meat and eggs completely. To learn more about how to keep your family and loved ones safe from contaminated food and foodborne illnesses, visit the federal government website on food safety.
Source: “Report: Unsafe food putting lives at risk” by Todd Sperry, published on CNN.com.