Food Safety: July 2008 Archives

Raw whole chicken This question was posed on Slate today in response to one of the economic issues addressed in Barak Obama's recent visit to Europe. Apparently the current European ban on U.S. chicken imports costs the U.S. close to $200 million annually. The issue isn't food safety in this case, it's supposedly taste. The chlorine is meant to prevent bacterial build-up, but a University of Georgia Study from August 1999 indicates that processed chicken receiving the chlorine treatment starts tasting funny after sitting in the fridge for a few days, while non-chlorinated chicken does not.

What's the lesson here? I'm not sure. I'd rather not have bleached chicken, but I guess I'll sleep easier knowing that if I eat quickly I won't notice.

According to the Tribune-Democrat of La Junta, CO:

The Laboratory Services Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has confirmed that a jalapeno pepper provided by an ill individual from Montezuma County has tested positive with the same DNA pattern of Salmonella Saintpaul-the strain that has caused a large, multistate outbreak of salmonella.

salmonella saintpaul case map This comes on the heels of 1307 cases of Salmonella Saintpaul across 43 states since April 2008. As of this writing, it's still unclear where the Salmonella was introduced to the peppers. What is clear is the tainted jalapeno peppers originated in Mexico and not from United States farms. You can see the number of cases by state by clicking on the map at the left.

Best practices in avoiding Salmonella Saintpaul are currently to verify where jalapenos you purchase originated from before buying them. If you must buy jalapenos sourced from Mexico, be sure to cook them long enough to kill any bacteria before using. More details are available from the CDC link above or from the FDA.

...may be the best way to make sure the food you buy is safe. As Kansas State University Professor and International Food Safety Network Barfblogger, Doug Powell, points out, a food safety audit does not ensure safe food. While Powell's post is in response to comments made by NSF CEO Kevan Lawlor in Crain's Detroit Business regarding a need for better testing in a global food economy, I think there's a more important message here. Of course NSF wants more testing - more tests mean more money for NSF. But testing only assures that the food was clean at the time testing took place, it says nothing about a farmer's, or processor's, or retailer's practices in getting food through the long chain starting at the farm and ending on your plate. Find localized sources for your food, get to know them and their practices, and you'll sleep easy knowing that whether more tests and regulations are required or not, the people providing your food care about providing quality.

Just before the Beijing Olympics, Chinese news agency Xinhua is reporting that popular Peking Duck restaurant Quanjude is guaranteeing all roast duck served to Olympic athletes will be 100% safe after passing an anti-doping test. What exactly does that mean? That's a little unclear, since the only unhealthy substance mentioned in the article on the testing is colon bacillus (aka E. coli). At least athletes shouldn't have to worry about food poisoning.

There is nothing mentioned about factory farm conditions in raising the ducks, their diet prior to arriving at your table, or whether the birds would pass any kind of organic certification, presumably because you don't really want to know. Having eaten roast duck more than once while staying in Beijing, I can tell you it tastes unlike any duck I've had anywhere else. However, I'm not sure I'd want to know exactly how it got to my table. While Quanjude is arguably the most well known roast duck in Beijing, if you're going to the Olympics (or just to Beijing) Li Qun Roast Duck restaurant, which is only a few blocks away, provides a more authentic atmosphere and you can at least see how the food is prepared before you eat it.

Li Qun Roast Duck


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