Yay for the FDA

I’d classify my eating style as high risk for salmonella, E. coli and all other forms of microbial contamination that can cause food-borne illness.

I like eating food raw or undercooked. I understand how freezing fish to -30 F lessens the risk but does not eliminate the dangers associated with eating sushi. I’m glad the sushi we get in the United States is made from flash-frozen fish, thanks to agencies such as the FDA that are charged with protecting our food as it moves from the ocean or the field to the plate.

I’m appreciative, too, that commercial mayonnaise, for example, must have a pH level and sufficient acidity to keep microbes from growing, bringing back potato salad and coleslaw to family reunions.

I believe the label on the bag that says the spinach is triple washed. No fourth wash coming from me. A burger that is cooked beyond medium rare is one that will go uneaten on my plate. Yes, I still like a cool pink center on a steak and the center red slice on a prime rib, the one sitting in a pan juice bath of bacteria, encouraged under heat lights for hours.

In short, I’m willing to take the risks. I understand that food-borne illness is probably the real culprit and not the “24-hour flu” when suddenly I’m tied to the bathroom and reduced to drinking flat ginger ale and clear fluids for 48 hours.

Heat kills most bacteria. Sanitary kitchen practices, hand washing, separate cutting boards and even divided prep areas in the kitchen are going to significantly cut back on food-borne illness. Street food from kiosks appears to present a greater risk, but these food establishments, too, are inspected and licensed.

The public needs education beyond the blare of alerts two weeks before every Thanksgiving feast. Yet, if we didn’t have that national holiday around which to build a food-borne illness prevention campaign, I suspect we’d all be spending more time tied to the bathroom, because so many do not make the connection between germs and illness. Turkey prep education spills over to the other 11 months folks cook, so we’re at least minimally aware.

To not eat locally grown food is almost a sin in Durango. If you aren’t shopping at the Farmers Market or gardening organically, then you had better have good reason or risk being ostracized. Is that passion against all commercial foods warranted?

Well here’s a question for your next farmer food producer: “Do you use steer manure in your garden beds?” If so, how decomposed is that manure? How do you know it gets “hot” enough to kill the bacteria that wash over the greens every time it rains?

Someone is triple washing the spinach in the cellophane bag. We think. That someone needs to be you if you are buying greens right out of the field and at the farmer’s stand. Ditto all uncooked produce.

Know your farmer, know your restaurant and know who is prepping the salad bar. You won’t catch me saying avoid the salad bar all together. As long as there’s a sneeze guard and it is well attended, the food is cold and ingredients appear fresh, it is a chance worth taking.

Next week’s food feature, “The salad bowl,” speaks to the joys of salad, whether home grown, locally grown or commercially assembled at your favorite salad bar.


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