The Dangers of Eating
Of Foodborne infections
Foodborne infections are illnesses that result from consuming food that has been improperly prepared or stored. Deadly or at least harmful bacterias can be found on many foods, and when the food is stored or prepared in such a way that said bacteria is allowed to fester and remain, it poses a great threat to the consumer. "About 25 percent of the U.S. population is especially vulnerable to foodborne pathogens because of impaired immune systems." (Fox(1) 14) Indeed, "foodborne illness spares no one." (Fox(1) 15) Even people in the prime of their life can be struck ill for weeks after eating contaminated food.
When these foodborne illnesses are capable of causing so much damage, it seems strange that you do not read or hear more of these incidents in the news. But tracing back towards 1992, there is one foodborne illness outbreak of nationwide proportions, the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak. However, "most probably think of it as an anomaly, a freak accident in an age of unprecented food safety when the combined forces of government regulation, technological innovation... and industrial accountability guarantee that what we eat will not harm us." (Fox(1) 10) It is precisely this optimistic outlook which puts many people in greater danger of picking up foodborne illnesses.
"Foodborne infections and intoxications are caused by a wide variety of microorganisms, toxins, and chemicals." (Gordon 133) One of the most well known bacteria that causes said infections is E. coli 0157. There have been at least 200 reports of outbreaks stemming from this bacteria since the Jack-in-the-Box incident. (Fox(1) 10) But hamburgers are hardly the only foods that have been rendered dangerous due to the abundance of foodborne illnesses.
Today, many foods are considered too unsafe to eat because of these illnesses: eggs, hamburgers, salads, homemade ice cream, raw cookie dough (not that anyone's stopped...), and many other meat products. (Fox(2) 49) All of these foods have been the subject of food scares, that is, large outbreaks of illness caused by one particular bacteria.
Every country has had it's food scare. Europeans in particular can still recall well their own most notable outbreak, mad cow disease. Indeed, "Mad Cow Disease hangs like a satanic cloud over our British farming, even though the government and its veterinary advisers exhibit an outwardly reassuring attitude." (Lacey 318) But one type of outbreak which has appeared just about everywhere is salmonella. These samonella outbreaks, while not as deadly as some, are very frequent and well known. They occur subsequent to "the ingestion of poultry, beef, eggs, or dairy products." (Millichap 135)
Every bacteria or other infectant that may be prevalent in your food has different optimal conditions for its life cycle. Generally, however, proper storage and cooking- stay away from rare hamburgers, certainly- can ensure the death of these harmful microorganisms. Avoiding fast food restraunts where the food may well be ill prepared or contaminated is another way to avoid contracting foodborne illnesses yourself, and also be wary of meat or other foods that taste different from what you may expect. Discarding food that may or may not carry a contaminant is far less costly than a trip to the hospital will be.
However, everything spoken of here is an example of treating the systems- the contaminated food itself, however, must at some point be dealt with at a higher level. And this, of course, means at the level of industry in the government, which can only be prodded into action by campaigning from the public and the media. As it stands, "blame for the increase in foodborne diseases can be placed squarely on an industry focused on spending less to earn more; on news media that only now are beginning to pay attention to a developing problem and the facts behind the increase in foodborne disease; on a government agency mired in conflict and far too cozy with the industry it is meant to regulate... and perhaps most critically, cheap food." (Fox(2) 15)
Logsdon, Gene. At Nature’s Pace: Farming and the American Dream. New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.
Fox, Nicols. It Was Probably Something You Ate. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Mather, Robin. A Garden of Unearthly Delights. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.
Tannahill, Reay. Food in History. New York: Crown Publisher’s Inc, 1973.
Millichap, J. Gordon. Environmental Poisons in Our Food. London: PNB Publishers, 1993.
Lacey, Richard W. Hard to Swallow. New York: Cambridge Press, 1994.
Doyle, Jack. Altered Harvest: Agriculture, Genetics, and the Fate of the World's Food Supply. New York: Viking Penguin Press 1985.
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