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Food and Safety What Factors Determine the Safety of Food Consumed
Foodborne illnesses in the United States are a major issue thanks to the unhygienic and improper methods of handling food, right from production to the consumption stages. About 48 million Americans contract food-related diseases ranging from Salmonella in eggs to E. coli, 30,000 of whom die from the illnesses (Katel n.p). Despite there being in place food safety guidance programs in the United States, citizens continue to consume substandard foods, leading to diseases and even death. Issues such as weak policies imposed on food inspection, poor handling of food by consumers and the general laxity by the food processing plants are some of the major problems hindering the achievement of the highest standards of food consumed by the people of USA. According to Altekruse et al. (216), there is a dramatic increase in the disease-causing pathogens found in food, due to the changes in the population dynamics, the food production methods used today including genetic modification of organisms, and food transportation methods. On the other hand, an article by Bruhm et al. states that consumers are largely responsible for food contamination and unsafe consumption (74). The two articles focus on two varying methods of ensuring food is safe for consumers, while Bruhm believes that education to consumers on proper food handling methods can minimize the risk, Altekruse believes in a more wholesome method that focuses on the food producers, processing factories and the delivering methods.
According to Altekruse et al. (2191), demographic variation is a factor in the safety of food consumed by the American people. For example, there is a culture of consumption of unpasteurized milk among the Hispanics, putting them at a higher risk of contracting the salmonella, one of the major pathogen that causes food-poisoning related deaths (Altekruse et al. 219). Furthermore, the article s findings indicate that consumer hygiene and awareness is not enough to ensure food safety measures to uphold standards during production, processing, and transportation of food are key in ensuring success. During this era of technological advancement, stakeholders including farmers and food processors are revolutionizing their activities as farmers turn to the GMO method of growing food, and factories come up with food additives to increase profits and cut down on costs. Government agencies such as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture should impose strict measures to the stakeholders to ensure that the revolutionary measures are up to standard and do not put consumers at risk of contracting diseases.
In contrast, Bruhm et al. state that emphasis should be placed on raising awareness among consumers on the proper methods of handling food to enhance safety (74). In their survey, the researchers found out that the main sources for this information to consumers include government ads through media platforms, supermarket and store brochures, and scientific magazines (Bruhm et al. 83). The most common mistakes identified among consumers while handling food include obtaining food from unhygienic sources, improper handling of specific foods such as cooling without following proper guidelines as well as unhygienic storage conditions once the food is purchased (Bruhm et al. 74). Compared to past years, consumer perception on food safety has transformed with people learning to ensure hygiene during food preparation as opposed to previous years where people believed that food contamination resulted from the processes in the factories, farms, and supermarkets. The article illustrates a degree of success in the recently increased campaign for food safety assurance among the customers.
In spite of the different opinions on ensuring food safety, the two articles agree on the consumer response to the campaigns to ensure food safety. For example, according to Bruhm et al. (77), consumers are increasingly learning to keep a healthy diet by reducing the amount of calories-consumption and improving on food storage to minimize the risk of contamination. However, consumers lack the knowledge to handle the microorganisms that cause food contamination, emphasizing the need to base public awareness programs on scientific research. In the second article, the consumers changed the perspective on food safety due to the increased awareness through ads and point-of-sale warnings. Cross-contamination is also low compared o the previous years as consumers learn the importance of washing hands while handling foods such as raw meat (Altekruse et al. 219). Still, the two articles put emphasis on the scientific sources of information to educate consumers on the handling of pathogens in food because as studies indicate, consumers are likely to rely on scientific facts rather than general information.
The two articles suggest the importance of consumer awareness in the effort to control food contamination amongst the American population. In addition to raising consumer awareness, Bruhm suggests the imposing of strict measures to the people handling food before it reaches the consumer to minimize the risk of food contamination. Measures such as regulating the chemicals used by farmers to grow food and factories during processing reduce the chances of exposure of food articles to disease-causing organisms, including restaurants and other food outlets thus ensuring the safety of food once it reaches the consumer. In conclusion, the consumer is the main determinant of the safety of the food regarding the storage, cooking and handling methods used in the kitchen but the incorporation of all stakeholders in food production is key in achieving the highest standards of quality food.
Altekruse, Sean F., et al. A multi-state survey of consumer food-handling and food-consumption practices. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 16.3 (1999) 216-221.
Bruhn, Christine M., and Howard G. Schutz. Consumer food safety knowledge and practices. Journal of food safety 19.1 (1999) 73-87.
Katel, Peter. Would new legislation make the food supply safer. CQ Researcher, 17 December 2010, HYPERLINK http//library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.phpidcqresrre2010121700typehitlistnum0 http//library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.phpidcqresrre2010121700typehitlistnum0
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