What Will It Take To Make Our Food Supply Safer?

MADISON, Wis. – Two years ago, it was contaminated spinach that sickened thousands of people. This year, it was a nationwide salmonella outbreak, traced to a peanut-processing plant, that killed at least eight people.

Every year, more than 350,000 people are hospitalized and 5,000 die from food-borne illness in the United States. Dr. Dennis Maki, professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, says “it’s time to stop reliving history.”

Maki, an epidemiologist, argued in the New England Journal of Medicine that safer food will come “only when the federal government commits sufficient resources to achieve it.” Maki argues for the following measures:

  • An international moratorium on using growth-promoting antibiotics in animal feed
  • Using bar codes on all commercially available food, to indicate its point of origin
  • Routine irradiation of selected foods before they reach the grocery shelves

The way the United States produces and distributes food has changed permanently, says Maki. Food-safety practices need to catch up.

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