"The greatest wealth is health." – Virgil
Tuesday. Mark your calendars. Just when you thought we were done hearing about Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, Netflix is releasing a brand new docuseries covering the trial tomorrow. Consider the rest of my week a wash — this show obviously needs my full, undivided attention. On a more serious Netflix-related note, a new documentary covering food safety came out over the weekend. So, how safe is the food we have access to in the U.S.? Let’s dive in.
A Fresh Look At Food Safety
When was the last time you stopped to think about how safe our food is? I mean, it’s 2023, and we live in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. Food safety concerns should be a thing of the past here in the U.S., right? Well, the newly released Netflix documentary "Poisoned" challenges the perception that the American food supply is the safest in the world and takes a deep dive into the unsettling reality of food safety in the U.S.
The documentary opens with bold claims about American food safety, juxtaposed with haunting footage of foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls. It brings to attention the tragic 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak that led to the death of children and became an awakening moment for the food industry. The resulting stringent regulations have made beef-related outbreaks rare, showcasing how government regulations can indeed make a significant difference.
While beef has become safer, the film also highlights that the fresh toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions on your burger might now be the riskiest part. Contamination of leafy greens with E. coli is repeatedly mentioned, and even USDA’s former head of food safety admits she doesn’t eat romaine lettuce. This all begs the question: How safe are our salads?
Apparently, not so safe. Most of the leafy greens in our food supply are grown near animal agriculture operations. This increases the likelihood of cross-contamination, and since we don’t cook leafy greens before eating them, the risk for food-borne illness can be pretty high.
Interestingly, the film mostly omitted any mention of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a significant update to food safety law passed in 2010. Including FSMA could have been an opportunity to discuss why outbreaks are still occurring despite these updates to the law. It could be that regardless of the law passing, federal agencies are still failing when it comes to enforcement.
On a similar note, the film also fails to mention the FDA's delayed action in creating water standards to prevent contamination of fresh produce — an unsettling reminder of how broken the current system is.
Chicken, a staple in many American households, is revealed in the film to contain pathogenic Salmonella in 17% of tested samples. While some steps have been taken to combat this issue, it's clear that a stricter line needs to be drawn. The partial access given to the filmmakers by Perdue provides a rare behind-the-curtain view of the industry but still leaves some unsettling questions unanswered.
One significant revelation from "Poisoned" is the gap between what consumers believe the government does for food safety and what actually takes place. You might watch the documentary (or just read this newsletter) and feel more vulnerable about your daily food choices, and that would be perfectly understandable.
The documentary doesn't accuse the industry of deliberately causing outbreaks, so it’s not like this is a tin-foil hat type of film. Instead, it paints a picture of an incompetent sector that isn’t doing enough to prevent repeated problems. The blame isn’t solely on the producers either; federal agencies, retailers, and even our bright, youthful minds in Congress share some responsibility.
The key takeaway? You shouldn’t get all your health information from Netflix. That said, “Poisoned” does open our eyes to the uncomfortable truth about food safety in the U.S.
We should take this opportunity to reflect on our habits and push for more awareness, stricter regulations, and responsible practices within the food industry. So whether you end up watching “Poisoned” or the new Amber Heard Johnny Depp docuseries this week, just remember to wash your lettuce, cook your chicken all the way through, and don’t use the same cutting board for raw meat and fresh produce.
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1. Maybe, Just Maybe
Maybe if we keep posting Fall recipes, we can make it so that Fall comes early and these temperatures start to drop. One can hope. Worst case, save this one for cooler temps that should be here soon (fingers crossed).
2. Midweek Mocktail For the Win.
Since it realistically won’t get any cooler this week, here is a refresher midweek mocktail that is refreshing and delicious.
3. Is Keto Still Cool?
I am not sure if Keto is still cool or not, but this keto protein bar recipe will always be cool. Give it a try and skip the store-bought protein bars that are mostly just candy bars with a little bit of protein.
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