By the Numbers
According to a recent survey reported on by Dr. Christine Bruhn, director of the Consumer Research Center at the University of California, Davis, almost 90% of consumers trust the U.S. government on food safety issues, yet most of them fail to follow safe eating habits. According to Bruhn, 50% of those polled eat undercooked eggs, 24% eat home canned vegetables and 20% eat pink hamburgers. Regarding irradiation, Bruhn reports nearly 67% of consumers believe fast food products should be irradiated, 51% believe hospital food should be irradiated; 49% believed grocery store items should be irradiated.
According to a recent story in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the U.S. governments chicken inspection system is doing a less than adequate job weeding out diseased produce. According to the Record, U.S. chicken inspectors check carcasses as they move down the processing line at the rate of one every two seconds. According to a 16-plant audit conducted by an independent consulting firm, when a team of trained veterinarians reviewed the results of inspections they found that only 12% of the chickens inspectors condemned were in fact abnormal, and only one tenth of one percent had diseases that would be grounds for condemnation. More worrisome, of the chickens that were passed for sale to the public, 42% had hair or feathers, 21% had bruises the size of a quarter or larger, and 16% had scabs or sores.
According to an article appearing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Volume 283 Number 14, David Satcher MD, Ph.D., Assistant Secretary for Health and Surgeon General of the United States, claims that in the last decade food safety has emerged as a significant global issue with public health and international trade implications. Satcher claims that about 1.5 billion global episodes of diarrhea occur annually, mainly in developing countries, resulting in 3 million deaths among children less than five years of age. The World Health Organization has estimated that 70% of such diarrheal episodes are caused by biologically contaminated food. Moreover, says Satcher, according the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 38% of fruits and 12% of vegetables eaten by Americans last year were imported, placing U.S. consumers at increased risk due to the problem of foodborne illnesses plaguing these emerging Third World economies.