Organized in a quick-reference, A-to-Z format, Safe Foods will help readers separate the hype from the truth, find safe, healthy foods for their families, and answer some of today's most burning questions, including: Are organic fruits and vegetables worth the extra expense
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October 05, 2004
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Excerpt from Safe Foods by Deborah Mitchell
Playing with Your Food
Once upon a time you could walk into an orchard, pick an apple off a tree, shine it against your sleeve until it glowed, and eat it without fear of ingesting pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or wax used to make the skin shiny and appealing. Short of finding a worm inside the apple, you were ensured a healthy treat.
Once upon a time you could cast your net into the ocean or a river, haul in sea bass or salmon, and be ensured a pesticide-free, mercury-free fish dinner.
Once upon a time you could pluck a ripe, juicy tomato from the vine and take a bite without wondering whether it had been genetically modified and possibly contained fish genes to help improve its shelf life.
Once upon a time foods such as ice cream, bread, cakes, cookies, and pies were made with wholesome, natural ingredients, and you didn't need a chemistry degree to pronounce and decipher the names of the preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and fillers in these foods.
That was once upon a time. Today, hundreds of thousands of people handle or make modifications to your food before it reaches your table. These people include government employees, scientists, farmers, slaughterhouse workers, pesticide sprayers, feedlot operators, canning facility workers, food inspectors, truckers, grocers, and many others who have a hand in the quality and safety of the food you eat. Unless you grow or produce all of your own food, you entrust the quality and safety of your food and thus your health to these individuals every day.
Let's take a look at some of the organizations and people who play a critical role in determining and maintaining the quality of your food.
WHO'S WATCHING OVER YOUR FOOD?
Because so many people have their hands on your food before it even reaches your table, it's good to know that there are many organizations both public and private-working to ensure food safety and quality. We gathered much of the information in this book from these organizations, as well as from current research studies. Throughout this book you will see the following organizations, among others, mentioned:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Determines the pesticide residue levels that may legally remain on food. These levels are called "tolerances" and are monitored by another government agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Monitors both domestic and imported foods to make sure pesticide tolerances set by the EPA are not exceeded. One way it does this is through the Total Diet Study, a yearly program in which more than 286 types of food are analyzed for levels of pesticides as well as industrial chemicals and various elements (e.g., lead, mercury, zinc). You will read more about this study, its results, and what you can do to help avoid these food contaminants in Part II of this book. The FDA also sets tolerances for drug residues in raw meat, poultry, milk, and eggs.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): Has several programs that monitor food safety: for example, the Pesticide Data Program, which checks pesticide levels in a limited number of samples of fruits and vegetables, rice, beef, poultry, and water each year, and the Food Safety Inspection Service, which measures, for example, the levels of arsenic in chicken.