It is time for me to resurrect my Food Fables Friday feature. (I do like alliterations.) Like the knitting project days (WIP Wednesday and FO Friday) FF Fridays will be posted when I have food news to share. Hopefully more often than in the past year. If you see any items you would like to be discussed in more detail add a link in the comments. Comments are sent to my email, so I know when they have been posted even it it is years after the blog post went online.
This week’s food news:
- More on the Tomato and Salmonella outbreak
- The 2008 World Food Prize winner were announced today
More on the tomatoes and Salmonella scare:
Barfblog reports that the number of people affected has increased to 228 in 23 different states with 25 hospitalizations. The last date some one reported getting sick was June 1 so it still is not clear if the contaminated tomatoes are all out of the circulation yet. You would hope so as tomatoes have a relatively short shelf life, but they can be stored in the right environment for longer than they last in our fridges or on our counter tops. There is still no news as to the source of the outbreak. Unsurprisingly there has been criticism leveled at the FDA for their slow response time and but as this NYTimes editorial points out:
To do its job, the agency [the FDA] is going to need even more resources — to hire more inspectors — and more authority, including to inspect farms. The country also needs a better way to trace exactly where food comes from — a “trace-back system” — so that health officials can identify the source of contamination quickly.
The FDA is notoriously underfunded and understaffed. Despite that fact that it regulates 80% of the food supply, the USDA does the rest, the FDA only gets 24% of the available money (ref). In a NYT opinion, Bad Cow Disease, Paul Krugman reminds us that over the last 20 years the FDA has been given more and more responsibilities; for example, Nutritional Labeling, Dietary Supplements, increased food imports while having a smaller workforce:
For example, the work of the F.D.A. has become vastly more complex over time thanks to the combination of scientific advances and globalization. Yet the agency has a substantially smaller work force now than it did in 1994, the year Republicans took over Congress.
The administration is not helping by appointing people to run the food inspection branches of the FDA and the USDA who have close ties with the food industry, giving the impression that the industry bodies are running the show:
Thus, when mad cow disease was detected in the U.S. in 2003, the Department of Agriculture was headed by Ann M. Veneman, a former food-industry lobbyist. And the department’s response to the crisis — which amounted to consistently downplaying the threat and rejecting calls for more extensive testing — seemed driven by the industry’s agenda.
One amazing decision came in 2004, when a Kansas producer asked for permission to test its own cows, so that it could resume exports to Japan. You might have expected the Bush administration to applaud this example of self-regulation. But permission was denied, because other beef producers feared consumer demands that they follow suit.
It is important that the food supply is safe but it is also important to put it all into perspective. Considering that the US population is over three hundred million and an average 81 people in the US die daily from gunfire and 40,000 people died in car crashes in 2004, getting sick from food is a low risk. Just uncomfortable at the time.
The World Food Prize: 2008 Winners Announced
Robert Dole and George McGovern were honored today by the announcement that they had won the 2008 World Food Prize. The ex-Senators were awarded this prize because of:
their inspired, collaborative leadership that has encouraged a global commitment to school feeding and enhanced school attendance and nutrition for millions of the world’s poorest children, especially girls.
Called the Nobel Prize for Food:
The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
It is great that the prize will be awarded, the ceremony is in October, to people who collaborated to encourage a different way of thinking about the food supply, so children get food and receive education at the same time.