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Which foods do and don't have to be organic to be clean? Community gardens

Have you ever wondered which fresh produce gets on the dirty dozen or 15 dirtiest foods list and which foods don't really require you to buy them organic? According to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) "Dirty Dozen" list, the Environmental Working Group (EVG) lists the amounts of pesticides in fruits and vegetables.

Which foods do and don't have to be organic to be clean?
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The highlights of EWG's the Highlights of Dirty Dozen™ 2014 list as to the dirtiest vegetables and fruits includes includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes. Each of these foods contained a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items. The message is to buy these foods organic.

There's also a section of particulars on the list That notes facts about certain fruits and vegetables such as every sample of imported nectarines and 99 percent of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue. That's why it's important to buy organic apples. Unfortunately, in Sacramento, not all supermarkets carry organic apples. Sometimes you have to seek out the organic produce aisles, which may not have too many fruits on them that are organic. This author found when it came to organic cherries and raspberries, at a cost of nearly $8 per pound for a small plastic bag or container of raspberries and cherries, this month, when brought home, the berries were so old that they were mushy, soft, falling apart and tasted moldy. The cherries were smashed, and some tasted moldy.

The slide-shut plastic bag the cherries came in were open so that anyone could have tasted the cherries. When the bag was opened, pieces of cherries were torn out, almost as if someone took a bite out of about half a dozen of the cherries and then put the remaining pieces of cherry back into the plastic bag and zipped it shut. There's no way to know whether the cherries arrived that way from the farmer or whether someone in the store tasted the cherries and spit the pieces back into the bag and then put it on the shelf.

Since there's no way to know what really happened, there's no sense in mentioning the store, only to say the organic cherries were priced about three dollars more than the bag of cherries that are not organic. Since the organic cherries and raspberries cost so much more for so few berries in the container compared to the cheaper prices of the non-organic cherries and raspberries, most people were buying the fresher tasting berries that were not organic and cheaper.

Pesticides on the produce

When you look over the Environmental Working Group's list of the produce tested, the list mentions that the average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food. Consumers usually have no way of testing produce to see what's contaminated and have to take the store's or farmer's label for granted as to what's organic. The problem for most people is the much higher price for organic food and the chance that the food has remained on the shelf so long that it tastes mushy, moldy, or has chunks taken out of it.

On the Environmental Working Group's list of the dirtiest foods, the list mentions that a single grape sample contained 15 pesticides. Single samples of celery, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and strawberries showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

The Clean Fifteen™

Since EWG has tradmarked their list, for example the title, "EWG's Clean Fifteen™ for 2014," it's important that consumers know that the EWG found that the produce least likely to hold pesticide residues - are avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticides.

That means if a piece of fruit or vegetable has a relatively small amount of pesticides, you don't have to pay a lot extra to buy the produce in its organic form. For example, avocados that are priced much higher when marked organic at any given supermarket or food store don't have to be organic. You're going to peel it anyway.

When you check out the EWG list, look for the notable findings section that found avocados were the cleanest. Only one percent of avocado samples showed any detectable pesticides. Pineapples and mangoes so popular this summer also don't have to be organic because EWG found that some 89 percent of pineapples, 82 percent of kiwi, 80 percent of papayas, 88 percent of mango and 61 percent of cantaloupe had no residues.

Another astonishing finding on the EWG list is that no single fruit sample from the Clean Fifteen™ tested positive for more than 4 types of pesticides. And detecting multiple pesticide residues is extremely rare on Clean Fifteen™ vegetables. Only 5.5 percent of Clean Fifteen samples had two or more pesticides.

Which vegetables have too many pesticides?

Remember to check the list for the Dirty Dozen PLUS™ section because, for the third year, EWG has expanded the Dirty Dozen™ with a Plus category to highlight two foods that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides.

What you want to buy organic are those leafy green vegetables, the kind you hide in those smoothies or serve as a side dish or chop up in salads. Leafy greens - kale and collard greens - and hot peppers do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen™ ranking criteria but were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system.

EWG recommends that people who eat a lot of these foods buy organic instead. It's easy to buy organic if you can afford the market price in stores. Another solution, at least during summer months is to grow your own green leafy vegetables in urban gardens. Check your area to see whether your nearest house of worship has plots of land to rent for you to grow your own vegetables without using pesticides.

One example of Sacramento community garden plots for rent to the public mentioned is the July 5, 2014 Sacramento Bee article by Mozes Zarate, "Church garden cultivates beds, beauty, and community." Redeemer's Field, a community garden on the grounds of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Carmichael. Garden beds are available for rental. The church is located in the Arden Arcade-Carmichael areas of Sacramento.

A garden plot for growing your own produce rent (at the time of the Sacramento Bee article) for $40 a year at Redeemer’s Field, a year-old community garden on land owned by the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer. The church is located at 4641 Marconi Ave., Carmichael. You would contact the church to see whether any plots are available. See the website, "Lutheran Church-Our Redeemer in Sacramento, CA | 4641 Marconi Avenue." Or see, "Redeemer’s Field at LCOR makes the news."

If you walk down the block on Marconi Avenue, you see apartment buildings all along Marconi Avenue for miles. If you live in an apartment and have no backyard to grow vegetables, you at least have the chance to rent a plot of land to grow your own produce during the growing season here. For example, a garden plot that's available for rental could be two 8-by-20-foot beds and four raised beds for wheelchair-accessible gardening.

If you contact the church, at least you'll be able to find out what's available. The project broke ground in March 2013. What a community garden has accomplished here is to transform an empty church lot into a source of healthful and affordable food for community members.

Redeemer's Field

At Redeemer’s Field, the name of the community garden at the church, there are 20 occupied beds growing anything and everything, from bulbous watermelon and heirloom tomatoes to cinnamon basil and zucchini squash. Red grapevines hug one side of a bordering chain link fence, and a line of burgeoning fruit trees, welcomes visitors near the entrance gate, open at all hours of the day. Available for rental (at the time of the Sacramento Bee article) are two 8-by-20-foot beds and four raised beds for wheelchair-accessible gardening. You might check with the church to see whether any space is still available to rent.

At the center lies a bed of proud sunflowers raised by a member who lives in an apartment across the street, notes the Sacramento Bee article. Find out what you can do in your neck of the city either in the farm-to-fork movement here in Sacramento or as the Sacramento Bee article explains, find out how you can address hunger in the area.

When you look at Marconi Avenue, you can see neat rows of modest private homes along the side streets, most with yards for growing some produce. But did you know (according to the Sacramento Bee article) that only a half-mile from the garden is one of 22 Sacramento “food deserts,” neighborhoods whose residents have little access to healthful and affordable food? The Sacramento Bee article explains how community efforts are addressing local hunger.

Genetically engineered crops

Most processed food typically contains one or more ingredients derived from genetically engineered crops. But GE food is not often found in the produce section of American supermarkets. A small percentage of zucchini, yellow squash and sweet corn on grocery store shelves is GE. Most Hawaiian papaya is GE.

Others GE foods are currently being tested and may be approved by the USDA in the future. Since U.S. law does not require labeling of genetically engineered produce, EWG advises people who want to avoid GE crops to purchase organically-grown foods or items bearing the "Non-GMO Project Verified" label. EWG recommends that consumers check EWG's Shopper's Guide To Avoiding GE Food, which is designed to help them identify foods likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Report: Behind the Guide - Contemporary issues in pesticide safety

EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce is designed to step in where the government falters. It translates an extensive database of pesticide tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and federal Food and Drug Administration on food crops into a user-friendly tool that empowers Americans to reduce their exposures to pesticide. This year's guide draws from 32,000 samples tested by USDA and FDA scientists. They detected pesticides on two of every three samples.

EWG's analysis of the government tests has spotlighted sharp differences in the number and concentrations of pesticides measured on various fruits and vegetables. These findings convince us that people have the power to reduce their intake of pesticides by avoiding the Dirty Dozen crops or purchasing organically-produced fruits and vegetables instead.

Why is it so difficult to find organic strawberries in many supermarkets?

Some local stores do carry organic frozen strawberries. But from where do the frozen organic strawberries originate? How long have they been frozen? Celery and strawberries are two of the most highly contaminated plant foods, unless they're organic. Some Sacramento supermarkets carry fresh organic strawberries when they're in season and organic celery more often, usually originating from California farms.

Strawberries and celery (that are not organic) compete for the most contaminated list. On June 3, 2010, the Los Angeles Times blog reported that celery now tops the list of produce most contaminated by pesticides, according to the 2010 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce released early in June 2010 by the Environmental Working Group.

To find local organic produce, check out the local Whole Foods Market in Sacramento and the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Sometimes organic strawberries that you see in a variety of Sacramento food stores aren't local, but imported, especially when out of season. Some Sacramento supermarkets do have organic strawberries.

The catch-22 is the strawberries may not be local. For example, in some supermarkets, the organic frozen strawberries may be coming from a foreign country. With blueberries, in some Sacramento supermarkets, the packages are marked with a product from Chile stamps, while other packages that look exactly like the ones stamped as a product of Canada are stamped with signs that read, a product of Chile. Strawberries can come from Mexico or other areas. Part of the issue is seasonal.

If the strawberries aren't organic, they're usually put on the "dirty dozen" list of fruits containing higher amounts of pesticides

Rounding out the "dirty dozen" of 49 fruits and vegetables tested are strawberries, apples, domestically grown blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, kale/collard greens, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes. Topping the "clean 15" are onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangos and sweet peas.

Check out the article, The 10 Most Important Foods to Buy Organic. That article also notes pertaining to strawberries that, "The fresh, sweet strawberries you buy in the supermarket are the single most heavily contaminated fruit or vegetable in the U.S., according to another 1993 EWG study." The article wasn't referring to local organic strawberries.

That's one more reason to buy organic strawberries or grow them yourself in your backyard. The article reports the following information, "Seventy percent of all strawberries tested contained at least one pesticide, and 36 percent contained two or more. Strawberries are also laced with endocrine disruptors."

Frozen strawberries can be bought organic, but the flavor is sometimes less than you feel on your tongue with fresh strawberries. That same article reports, "According to Consumer Union's Pest Management at the Crossroads, strawberries can receive a dose of 500 pounds of pesticides per acre. Out-of-season strawberries are the most likely to have been imported, possibly from a country with less-stringent pesticide regulations. Organic brands include Golden River Farms, Cascadian Farms and Boulder Fruit Express."

But don't eat too many strawberries. They can stimulate your thyroid too much if you wolf them down in large amounts. Portion size is important. So eat a little at a time.

What's in strawberries that stabilizes resveratrol in your body? How Strawberries Can Help

A rare flavonoid called fisetin is found only in tiny quantities in the world of plants. What fisetin does in your system is to maintain levels of glutathione, which is the primary antioxidant "internal to most cells in the body, in the presence of oxidative stress," according to the article, "You Are Eating More Calories Than You Think – Life Extension," (page 36) published in the July 2010 issue of Life Extension magazine.

Fisetin is a high-ranking flavonoid that prevents DNA damage, being studied as a potentially effective cancer-preventing agent, according to the Life Extension magazine article. Basically, what fisetin does is use its capacity to ward off "age-related cognitive decline."

Studies are being done on how fisetin modulates the brain's nerve cell pathways. Also, fesetin helps to mimic caloric restriction. How fisetin stabilizes resveratrol is by protecting it from your liver. There are metabolic enzymes in your liver and digestive system that break down any supplements you take. But it's the fisetin that shields the resveratrol from being broken down by your liver.

That's how fisetin may increase the amount of resveratrol you get in your bloodstream. Otherwise, resveratrol has a very short half-life in your body, according to the Life Extension magazine article. The strawberries you buy or grow in Sacramento need to be free from pesticide contamination. See the Food article, "The Dirty Dozen" at the website, Methodology | Environmental Working Group.

The site lists the 12 most contaminated foods, mostly fruits, and the 15 cleanest foods, mostly vegetables and some melons. Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectable, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue. Also check out the article, Hepatitis A and Mexican Strawberries.

Foods most affected by pesticides and insecticides

The article, The Foods That Are Most Affected by Pesticides, reports that "strawberries are the most contaminated in the United States. According to a 1995 EWG study, strawberries are the most contaminated fruit in the United States. A single acre of strawberries can receive 500 pounds of pesticides. Worse, in the off-season, strawberries are brought in from outside the country where pesticide restrictions are even more lenient.

Organic is important because children are at a heightened risk from pesticides, because they eat more food relative to their body weight and because their nervous systems are still developing. And according to the National Research Council, children eat more fresh fruit than adults, which can expose them to multiple pesticides.

Strawberries and domestic blueberries each had 13 pesticides detected on a single sample. Peaches and apples were second, with 9 pesticides on one sample. More than 96 percent of peaches tested positive for pesticides, followed by nectarines (95.1 percent) and apples (93.6 percent).

California has the opportunity to prevent release of a new, carcinogenic and highly toxic pesticide into communities and into the environment

California can signal its priority for safe, clean and sustainable strawberry production - a powerful statement from the nation's leading strawberry producing state. If you're worried about commercial (not organic) strawberries being one of the most contaminated berries listed under the dirty dozen of pesticide-laden fruits found in most supermarkets, you should know that 87% of the nation's strawberries came from California in 2007.

California can also preserve scientific integrity and transparency in its regulatory decision-making. The Pesticide Action Network is waiting for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to signal its commitment to health, the environment and rigorous science with its decision on methyl iodide.

For further information, check out the website of the Fresno-based California Grape & Tree Fruit League. The problem with the vegetable and fruit farmers is that they don't have another commercial product that does the same job. So you might turn to the website of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ask yourself why has the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methyl iodide? And why have most of the states approved it? Are they blindsided by not having a substitute that's safer?

The only apparent committee that is not blindsided early on in their research is the eight-member committee reviewing the chemical for use in California. Those experts finally reached the conclusion that the risk of using methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, is too great. They were probably the only group that took into consideration the health issues of the workers whose protections are commonly "inappropriate, inadequate or inaccessible," according to the Sacramento Bee article.

Does anyone care about human to pesticide exposure of the fruit and vegetable pickers?

None of them are going to don space suits or biohazard gear to pick vegetables and fruits, and should they come down with cancer or lung lesions or thyroid issues, where are they going to get money to pay for health care? Do they know the survival rate for thyroid cancers and lung lesions, the human suffering? And who's going to warn them of the potent toxicity of methyl iodide?

The experts who take these issues into consideration usually are found in academic departments of environmental health sciences institutes at universities. The average fruit and vegetable gleaner or picker isn't about to walk into a department of environmental health sciences to ask what pesticides are on the plants being harvested without adequate controls, gear, or protective clothing. Methyl iodide can cause thyroid cancer, respiratory tract lesions and neurological effects in laboratory animals. But who will be telling you about those facts?

Why use fumigants?

Farmers say it's their most effective tool to get rid of bugs, diseases, and weeds in soil. For years, strawberries have been labeled one of the most contaminated berries you can eat (unless they're organic). It's not what's in the fruit as far as the nutrients. It's about what's not in the fruit (pesticides) that you should be concerned with because fumigants are widely used in the strawberry industry, commercial nurseries, and in the planting of vines and new trees.

Unless you grow your own strawberries in your yard, or are sure the fruit you eat is really organic, you can't control what's in your food. But who is going to tell farmers in California they have commercial alternatives if they are not in the burgeoning "green industry renaissance?"

Why are farmers rejecting the alternatives such as telone or metam sodium, if you're talking commercial fumigants. Why is it only methyl bromide that gives the farmers the results they demand? On one side you have scientists and environmentalists saying methyl bromide is too dangerous to put on fruit and vegetables, that is food.

What will the decision be regarding this toxic chemical, to rebuff science? To follow the money? To support the manufacturers? To listen to the average consumer and look for safe, long-term answers? Or the alternative, to go with big industry for the sake of big money?

The community does have one loophole left, to perhaps sue the state if methyl iodide is chosen over the decision to protect California food crops from carcinogenic toxins in certain pesticides. But if you talk to lawyers, where do they go first to get more information? Try the Pesticide Action Network North America. Check out the network's pesticide database.

Look at the website of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation Home Page. There are supporters of the fumigant. The supporters hope the Dept. of Pesticide Regulation will register the chemical so it can be sprayed on vegetables and fruits in California. Sure, there are two sides to every story, current event, or issue.

You'll hear the same story from most of the supporters of the chemical. They'll tell you the usual talk that everything is toxic at some level, that toxicity all depends upon the dosage and concentration--of any chemical, or anything else. Check out the website of the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers in Sacramento.

The California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers is a professional organization dedicated to the promotion and advancement of the nursery industry for its members and the public it serves, according to its website. CANGC is a driving force behind California's lawn an garden industry.

Unlike many other industries, the nursery business is not dominated by a handful of players. It is comprised of hundreds of entrepreneurs, in the business because of horticulture. CANGC is the forum for those in the horticultural field to exchange information and generate support for marketing, research and legislative and regulatory advocacy.

So if you're a consumer of California fruit and vegetables as you find in your local markets, think about who supports the chemical and who doesn't support the chemical you may want banned. They have to make a living too, and you can buy all types of weed killers, fumigants, and pesticides in many different nurseries and garden centers all over the state.

How many various garden centers are organic or sell organic pesticides?

Some do. But does it bring in the money? On a small scale, you can use non-toxic insecticides on your own vegetable garden in your yard. Who's making money? That's the question to ask, here in the midst of this new green industry revolution that's supposed to create a lot of new jobs.

How supporters are thinking of making the toxic chemical safer is by printing on the label directions on how to use soil fumigants. How do you protect farmers or anyone from exceeding the dose of methyl iodide on each piece of fruit or strawberry? Do most farmers even read the labels on fumigants that closely to measure which dosage is correct?

Will farmers use methyl iodide in small quantities? Will they really reduce the amount used in the strawberry fields or other vegetable and fruit-growing areas? And will companies continue to require fumigant applicators to take special training? How many have had training? Do they really always follow the directions?

Why are so many experts ignoring scientific research?

Why has methyl iodide gained registration from the federal EPA back in 2007? The fumigant, which the EPA allows for use with restrictions, also has been approved for use by 47 states. But do farmers or their hired help actually follow those restrictions?

Is this an issue between conservatives and liberals? Or is it just about scientists worrying that farmers or their temporary or hired help won't follow the restrictions on the chemical usage, whether they are trained or not?

Is the issue, rather about environmentalists browbeating farmers? Or is it really that the average consumer hopes farmers will someday be pesticide-free and use other methods of getting rid of bugs on the plants.

So far it's the organic farmers providing the types of foods that consumers demand. But a lot of consumers can't afford organic food unless they grow it themselves. But where can you grow food in a small apartment? Try urban community vegetable and fruit gardens and slow food suggestions.

Will toxic fumigants always be on commercial vegetables? And if so, what can the average consumer on a tight budget do about it? Farmers say they won't be sustainable if they go pesticide-free. Is it about the scale? And what can you legally do to make food safer? Sign petitions? Volunteer for lobbying? Grow your own vegetables? Think about it, and consider the safer choice.

About thirty deaths a year are caused caused by consumption of eggs contaminated with the bacterium Salmonella enteritidis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on July 7, 2009 a new regulation that's expected to prevent each year 79,000 cases of foodborne illness. There are numerous online videos related to egg issues and salmonella, including: How Shell Eggs Are Pasteurized, and Dirtiest Foods: Eggs, Melons, Salad Mixes?

The final rule requires preventive measures during the production of shell eggs in poultry houses and requires subsequent refrigeration during storage and transportation. In addition to the new safety measures being taken by industry, consumers can reduce their risk of foodborne illness by following safe egg handling practices. You may wish to check out the Feb. 25, 2009 article, "FDA Needs More Resources To Oversee Food Safety."

The FDA reminds consumers to buy eggs that have been refrigerated, make sure eggs in the carton are clean and not cracked, and cook eggs and foods containing eggs thoroughly. Eggs should be thoroughly cooked. You may wish to check out the article, "FDA Food Safety Action Plan."

Egg-associated illness caused by Salmonella is a serious public health problem. Infected individuals may suffer mild to severe gastrointestinal illness, short term or chronic arthritis, or even death. Implementing the preventive measures would reduce the number of Salmonella enteritidis infections from eggs by nearly 60 percent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Egg-associated salmonellosis is an important public health problem in the United States and several European countries. A bacterium, Salmonella enteritidis, can be inside perfectly normal-appearing eggs, and if the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness. During the 1980s, illness related to contaminated eggs occurred most frequently in the northeastern United States, but now illness caused by S. enteritidis is increasing in other parts of the country as well. Consumers should be aware of the disease and learn how to minimize the chances of becoming ill."

“Preventing harm to consumers is our first priority,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. “Today's action will prevent thousands of serious illnesses from Salmonella in eggs.”

Salmonella enteritidis can be found inside eggs that appear perfectly normal. If the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness. Eggs in the shell become contaminated on the farm, primarily because of infection in the laying hens.

The rule requires that measures designed to prevent Salmonella enteritidis be adopted by virtually all egg producers with 3,000 or more laying hens whose shell eggs are not processed with a treatment, such as pasteurization, to ensure their safety.

Producers with at least 3,000 but fewer than 50,000 laying hens must comply within 36 months after the rule’s publication. Producers with 50,000 or more laying hens must be in compliance with the rule within 12 months after its publication in the Federal Register.

Under the rule, egg producers must:

  • Buy chicks and young hens only from suppliers who monitor for Salmonella bacteria
  • Establish rodent, pest control, and biosecurity measures to prevent spread of bacteria throughout the farm by people and equipment
  • Conduct testing in the poultry house for Salmonella enteritidis. If the tests find the bacterium, a representative sample of the eggs must be tested over an 8 week time period (4 tests at 2 week intervals); If any of the four egg tests is positive, the producer must further process the eggs to destroy the bacteria, or divert the eggs to a non-food use
  • Clean and disinfect poultry houses that have tested positive for Salmonella enteritidis
  • Refrigerate eggs at 45 degrees Fahrenheit temperature during storage and transportation no later than 36 hours after the eggs are laid.

Egg producers whose eggs receive treatments such as pasteurization still must comply with the refrigeration requirements. Similarly, certain persons such as distributors, packers, or truckers holding or transporting shell eggs also must comply with the refrigeration requirements.

To ensure compliance, egg producers must maintain a written Salmonella enteritidis prevention plan and records documenting their compliance. Producers (except those who have less than 3000 hens or who sell all their eggs directly to consumers) also must register with the FDA. The FDA will develop guidance and enforcement plans to help egg producers comply with the rule.

The FDA estimated that the rule would provide $1.4 billion in annual public health benefits, at an annual cost of $81 million to the regulated industry, or less than 1 cent per dozen eggs produced in the United States.

During the 1990s, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture implemented a series of post-egg production safety efforts such as refrigeration requirements designed to inhibit the growth of bacteria that may be in an egg. While these steps limited the growth of bacteria, they did not prevent the initial contamination from occurring.

The new rule is part of a coordinated strategy between the FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The FDA and the FSIS will continue to work closely together to ensure that egg safety measures are consistent, coordinated, and complementary.

Also, according to the NPR site, the July 8th,2009 article, "White House Proposes New Rules For Food Safety," by Joanne Silberner, "The Obama administration has announced plans for aggressive rules aimed at making the nation's food supply safer. The moves come in the wake of a series of serious food outbreaks and concern within the food industry that people fear their food. Reaction so far has been positive, both from industry and consumer groups." One of the biggest problems is the FDA not having "a handle" on imported foods. There are so many coming in, and the FDA doesn't have the staff or resources to test all the imports.

How eggs become contaminated

Unlike eggborne salmonellosis of past decades, the current epidemic is due to intact and disinfected grade A eggs. Salmonella enteritidis silently infects the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most types of Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of animals and birds and are transmitted to humans by contaminated foods of animal origin. Stringent procedures for cleaning and inspecting eggs were implemented in the 1970s and have made salmonellosis caused by external fecal contamination of egg shells extremely rare. However, unlike eggborne salmonellosis of past decades, the current epidemic is due to intact and disinfected grade A eggs. The reason for this is that Salmonella enteritidis silently infects the ovaries of healthy appearing hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells are formed.

Although most infected hens have been found in the northeastern United States, the infection also occurs in hens in other areas of the country. In the Northeast, approximately one in 10,000 eggs may be internally contaminated. In other parts of the United States, contaminated eggs appear less common. Only a small number of hens seem to be infected at any given time, and an infected hen can lay many normal eggs while only occasionally laying an egg contaminated with the Salmonella bacterium.

What is the risk?

In affected parts of the United States, the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in 50 average consumers could be exposed to a contaminated egg each year. If that egg is thoroughly cooked, the Salmonella organisms will be destroyed and will not make the person sick. There's a noteworthy older article from back in 2009 to see, "U.S. Considers Overhaul Of Food Safety System."

Many dishes made in restaurants or commercial or institutional kitchens, however, are made from pooled eggs. If 500 eggs are pooled, one batch in 20 will be contaminated and everyone who eats eggs from that batch is at risk. A healthy person's risk for infection by Salmonella enteritidis is low, even in the northeastern United States, if individually prepared eggs are properly cooked, or foods are made from pasteurized eggs. Another noteworthy article to peruse is, "Can a pine tree branch filter the bacteria out of rainwater?"

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