Years ago, food recalls were typically initiated from a malfunction or mechanical error.
The times have changed. Recalls are reaching deeper into consumers’ diets creating greater fear, that something’s wrong with the system. Products aren’t merely recalled for poor processing, slaughterhouse accidents, or canning glitches…there are dangerous new challenges.
Strawberries were tainted with E. coli from human waste improperly transferred to fields. Spinach was found with E. coli contamination inside the leaves (because cow manure from nearby farms contaminated groundwater that fed the plants), so proper washing and sanitation were ineffective at removing internal pathogens. There’s always another failure. There’s always something new to frighten the public.
Products recalled during the demise of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) should have forever changed public perceptions of food safety. In most previous recalls, only one brand was effected; but salmonella contamination of peanut products was “encapsulated” in an ingredient. Multiple companies used raw materials from the same source (PCA), so few brands remained on the shelf. (Historically when one brand made a mistake, consumers switched to an alternate product; but what if all brands used the same contaminated ingredients?)
Executives from big corporations who bought tainted peanut products were interviewed. The consensus from these leaders: it’s impossible to guarantee quality products are manufactured if their suppliers provide (undetected) contaminated ingredients. (It’s not possible to make good products without good ingredients.)
The adjoining truth is that food doesn’t have to be a commodity. The best solution is correction at the source. (Implement hazard analysis and control measures from the farm to the family home.) Instead, the government might use outbreaks as political fuel for further processing regulations. Processors are tasked with managing worker hygiene, equipment and finished products; so their next step would require radiation or thermal treatments for all foods. Those measures could deliver results, effectively killing E. coli potentially present, but not every consumer wants to eat ‘nuclear vegetables.’ Greater questions of hygienic behavior when implementing radiation treatment lies in whether sanitation standards would suffer because everything would be ‘treated.’ Sanitation might significantly relax because of radiation treatments. (There is already an industry with this philosophy. They manufacture pet foods.)
While the industry chases the fastest and cheapest way to manufacture foods that excite the palate, there’s a growing movement to transition toward natural organic foods. Eating lower on the food chain can dramatically reduce risk. With fresh ingredients assembled at home, sanitation is controlled by end-users and nutritional value increases. Some contamination risks are minimized by following a plant based diet, but proper storage and hygiene are important for extending the integrity of all foods. This won’t help if plants are internally contaminated, but that’s a more compelling reason to know the farmer!
How can average consumers transition to safely preparing and storing raw foods at home? The short list includes sprouting equipment, an organic sanitizer, and ways to extend shelf life beyond growing season: pickling supplies, a dehydrator, and perhaps a kefir starter. A quality juicer or high-speed blender will complete the raw food kitchen, and stocking cabinets with raw superfood powders makes the transformation complete.