Melamine Tops 2008 Food Safety Scares

Chicago meat inspectors in early 1906

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It seems like every week there’s another product recall involving melamine. In the last week, 2 more recalls have been issued:

Wonderfarm brand of biscuits

G&J Gourmet Market cocoa products

Bill Marler is a personal injury and products liability attorney litigating food borne illness cases since 1993. In a stomach knotting blog post, he lists this year’s top 9 food safety stories including:
- Melamine originating in China
- Salmonella St Paul in tomatoes and peppers
- Frozen uncooked entrees only partially prepared by microwave heating
- Listeria in deli meats in Canada

What you need to know:

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are 76 million cases of food poisoning annually. Over 300 thousand hospitalizations are the result of bad food, and sadly 5000 deaths each year are the result of food poisoning. Most deaths are related to E. coli, bacteria found in cattle feces that  make their way into our steaks and burgers.

While these numbers are very high, just 100 years ago the food safety situation was even worse. The meat packing industry was not regulated and sanitation conditions were far worse than today.  In the 1860′s and 70′s thousands of babies died just in New York as a result of a scandal known as “Swill milk,” where milk was  produced by cows fed distillery waste. Upton Sinclair’s undercover work and novel The Jungle resulted in The Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

So while there is plenty of room for improvement, most of us should prefer today’s safety standards to those of yesteryear.

A far graver danger to most Americans, though, is the nutritional quality of the food they eat. Too many calories, fats, and sugars won’t send you to the hospital after a visit to Burger King, but the health effects of such a diet over the course of years are devastating. Diet related diseases, such as hypertension and heart disease, are today a much bigger threat to our personal and national health than an occasional salmonella outbreak.

The manufacturers responsible for a food safety outbreaks pay the price for the damage they caused, or at least some part. But who pays the bills for the millions of of heart attacks caused by poor diets?

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  • Bill Marler

    Thanks for noticing the list – I am going to add you as a link. Cheers