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Magda Hassan
05-29-2009, 01:37 AM
Contamination has become so widespread that major frozen food purveyors admit they can no longer ensure the safety of their products.




Out in Arizona, an old tombstone bears an epitaph for a young gunslinger: "I was expecting this/But not so soon."
Gunslinging, of course, is a high-risk business. But today, some of us can expect to have the following marker on our graves: "Here lies a guy/Killed by a pot pie."
America's pot-pie threat lurks in an ingredient that today's producers of frozen foods don't list on their packages: salmonella. In just one salmonella outbreak in 2007, the Banquet brand of pies sickened an estimated 15,000 people in 41 states.
The true culprit in such poisonings, however, is not the little deadly bug, but the twin killers of corporate globalization and greed. Giant food corporations, scavenging the globe in a constant search for ever-cheaper ingredients to put in their processed edibles, are resorting to low-wage, high-pollution nations that have practically no food-safety laws, much less any safety enforcement.
Consider the case of ConAgra Foods, a massive conglomerate that sells 100 million pot pies a year under its Banquet label. Each pie contains 25 ingredients sourced from all over the world -- often from subcontractors who don't report their sources. Until the 2007 salmonella contamination of its pies, ConAgra did not even require suppliers to test for pathogens, nor did it do its own tests. Since poisoning one's customers turned out to be a bad strategy for earning repeat business, the conglomerate now runs spot checks -- but even when it detects contamination in a pie, it has not been able to determine which ingredient is the bad one.
In fact, as The New York Times recently reported in an extensive expose, food giants concede that their supply chains are so far-flung that they "do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening items for microbes." Meanwhile, the industry's lobbying front, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, has aggressively fought federal efforts to require a tracking system. "This information is not reasonably needed," the GMA curtly responded when such a rule was proposed.
ALARMING CONSUMER ALERT: Today, contamination has become so widespread that major frozen food purveyors admit they can no longer ensure the safety of their products!
Perhaps you're thinking that, surely, this self-indictment of the reckless globalization process has prompted corporations to change their systems and suppliers in order to ensure you and me that their foods are safe to eat. Ha! What a silly dreamer you are.
That could squeeze their profits, so instead they've come up with a much more corporate-friendly solution: They're shifting their contamination problem to you and me!
You'll notice that frozen food packages now contain precise, almost frantic instructions (complete with illustrations) on "kill steps" that we must take to keep their products from poisoning us. Banquet, for example, has a four-step diagram on the back of its pot-pie packages, directing consumers to make sure that the pie is heated to an internal temperature of exactly 165 degrees "as measured by a food thermometer in several spots."
Do such directives actually make frozen foods safe? An official with the Blackstone Group, the Wall Street equity firm that owns Swanson and Hungry Man brands, curtly states that the level of risk to consumers depends on "how badly they followed our directions."
His snotty attitude aside, following corporate cooking instructions to a "T" doesn't do the trick. The New York Times tested the directions on various brands of pot pies -- and all failed to achieve the magic level of 165 degrees. "Some spots in the pie heated to only 140 degrees even as parts of the crust were burnt," wrote reporter Michael Moss.
This is absurd. Frozen foods are supposed to be a consumer convenience, not a risky science experiment. Instead of thrusting faulty instructions at us on how to avoid "death by pie," how about just requiring conglomerates that profit from these products to accept their responsibility to put safe ingredients in their pies?


http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/140301/deadly_salmonella%3A_frozen_food%27s_newest_ingred ient/

Peter Lemkin
05-29-2009, 05:17 AM
Most of the food industry has long gone from bad to horrible - whether it be frozen or 'fresh'. I met a USDA meat inspector once who had become a vegetarian ONLY because of what he'd seen with his own eyes in meat plants - along with the cruelty. I'll spare everyone the details...... Yup, fast foods will get one to the grave faster. The corporatization of the food industry has caused a huge decline in the quality of the food supply in the USA and other countries following in close persuit. It can even be in the water, the food, anything now....

Number of Victims of E. Coli Poisoning in Upstate New York Grows to Nearly 300

The number of people suspected to have been infected in a severe outbreak of E. coli poisoning in New York State almost doubled yesterday, making the outbreak one of the most serious to have occurred in the United States, state health officials said yesterday.

The virulent E. coli bacterium, which health workers said they believed could be traced to contaminated water at the Washington County Fair in upstate New York late last month, is thought to have infected 291 people, said Kristine A. Smith, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Health. Of those, 49 have been hospitalized, including 10 children, 8 of whom are on kidney dialysis and in serious condition.

The outbreak is the worst to have occurred in the state, officials said, and some of the suspected cases have been reported in parts of Vermont adjacent to Washington County, where the outbreak began.

Health care workers around the state moved to contain public fears while informing parents with children who have symptoms of E. coli poisoning what to do. Other state officials worked to ascertain just how the outbreak became so severe.

A 3-year-old child, Rachel Aldrich, died on Saturday from the disease and her 2-year-old sister Kaylea, who was also infected, was among those in serious condition yesterday.

The strain involved in the Washington County outbreak, known as 0157:H7, is usually spread in under-cooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk and contaminated water. In healthy adults, it often just causes a mild gastrointestinal ailment. But 0157:H7 can be especially deadly to children, elderly people and those who have compromised immune systems. The affected children have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, which attacks blood cells and damages the kidneys.

''We are doing everything we can for these children,'' said Richard Puff, a spokesman for the Albany Medical Center Hospital, where the children are being treated.

''As parents we think it is an awful thing that happened,'' said Debi Conti, who lives in Clifton Park, where the dead girl lived. ''When you go to a fair you expect to drink the water there.''

Heavy rain may have caused water contaminated with cow feces from a farm near the fairgrounds to run into an aquifer, and from there into a well supplying water to the fair. ''This seems to be the most credible theory,'' Ms. Smith said, ''because we know E. coli is present in a certain amount of healthy cattle that can excrete it.''

As health care workers moved yesterday to prevent secondary infections -- transmitted from one person to another -- the state continued to test the water supply at the fairgrounds, in Greenwich, N.Y.

Health officials have detected water ''grossly contaminated with E. coli'' from a well at the fair, Ms. Smith said, and are now checking that water for the 0157:H7 strain. The process can be a lengthy one, Ms. Smith said.

She added that the number of suspected cases jumped from 159 to 291 overnight, as people with mild symptoms who thought they had the flu were told yesterday that they probably had been infected with E. coli.

Of the 291 suspected cases, 69 had been confirmed as E. coli by yesterday. All eight of the children on dialysis were listed in serious condition. Two other children are in fair condition at the hospital, Mr. Puff said.

Most of those infected were in Albany County and three counties north of there -- Saratoga, Washington and Warren.

If the number of people who have sought treatment turn out to have E. coli poisoning, as is strongly suspected, ''it would be accurate to say that this is one of the largest outbreaks ever in the country,'' said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

In 1993, four children died and more that 500 others became ill from eating undercooked hamburgers at a Jack in the Box fast-food restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. In 1996, contaminated apple juice produced by Odwalla Inc. caused 70 people in several western states and Canada to become sick, and a 16-month-old child to die.

Scores of health care workers were working overtime yesterday, analyzing water samples, examining the area where the fair took place and working to contain the illness by urging schools, day care centers and institutions that serve food to send home anyone with diarrhea. Health care workers in the region said that there was little panic because of the efforts of local health departments and other municipal organizations.

''We are getting a large number of phone calls, most of which come from people who have symptoms or are exposed to people with symptoms,'' said Dr. Max Crossman of the Granville Family Health Center in Granville, N.Y. ''We are not seeing panic. Most of the health care community is being consistent with its message.''

However, Dr. Carl Beckler, in West Pawlet, Vt., less than a mile from Granville, said more than a dozen panicky patients had come to his office in the last few days, concerned that stomach pain or diarrhea might be symptoms of exposure to E. coli bacteria.

Dr. Beckler said his office found no E. coli cases in those patients.

''People up here are pretty concerned,'' said James King, who lives in Fort Miller, near Greenwich. ''My son, Philip, parked cars at the fair and so I was concerned,'' but he has shown no symptoms since the fair ended 11 days ago.

The 0157:H7 strain has an incubation period of one to nine days, and its symptoms include severe diarrhea, cramping and occasional kidney failure. The infection is particularly hard to deal with because it does not respond to antibiotics and treatment is limited to fluid replacement and attempts to raise a victim's electrolytes.

It is often passed by people who work with food who have not washed their hands after going to the bathroom; that is also how the illness makes its way through a family. Secondary infections may account for up to 15 percent of the cases upstate, officials said.