US: Consumers have the final say, so let's hear from them
Posted: April 27th, 2010 - 12:53pm
(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)
What do fruit juice, milk, egg products and ground beef have in common? They are all produced by comingling product from hundreds of sources. Hundreds of eggs from many laying operations, broken into one large vat to eventually become a liquid or dried, shelf-stable product. One bad egg loaded with pathogens, and the whole lot could be contaminated. Hundreds of gallons of milk from many dairy farms dumped into one large vat. One bad gallon of milk and the whole vat could turn deadly. Hundreds of apples squeezed into juice. But first one falls to the ground and lands in a pile of you know what and the product may sicken many children getting their daily juice fix. And, of course, trim from hundreds of cattle, many farms and even a few countries being blended to get the perfect percent lean that the consumer wants. One contaminated carcass and we have another outbreak and subsequent recall.
Fruit juice, milk, egg products and ground beef. What do they not have in common? The final kill step to guarantee (almost) the safety of the product.
For 100 years milk has been pasteurized, a step that was instituted when dairy farms already had very high sanitation levels, but the product was still making people fall ill. It was fought then, and today people still have a choice of pasteurized versus raw milk. And those drinking raw milk because they feel pasteurization decreases nutritional value or changes the composition of the milk often suffer food-borne illnesses.
In 1970, the Egg Products Inspection Act was passed and the industry changed for the better, including routine pasteurization of egg products. Not because the eggs going into the product were necessarily bad, (in fact the Act mandated that they be safe and wholesome) but because the comingling increased the chance of one bad egg turning a whole batch bad.
And talk about one bad apple changing an industry! It is just in recent years that fruit juices also benefit from almost routine pasteurization because of a serious outbreak caused in part by commingling product. But does the average consumer even understand that they should read the juice label to be certain they are buying the safest product, or do they go for the least expensive?
Some shell eggs are pasteurized, and some ground beef products are pasteurized, but those that are make up a minority. When will the consumers demand that the vast majority of these two products that still carry a relatively high risk of contamination be pasteurized and labeled so we can make an intelligent (or not so intelligent) selection of foods for our tables?