Tag Archives: Food safety

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

While perusing the Internet the other day, I came across a great quote from Abraham Lincoln – “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” Of course, the irony is that there were obviously no computers – and furthermore no Internet – in Abe’s day, but it made a great point. With the advent of the Internet, we (as a society) have gotten lazy and careless about what we post and what we believe. The same day, a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook that claimed Monsanto refuses to serve GM (genetically modified) foods in their own company cafeterias. There was nothing to reveal the source of this information. There was no evidence or proof to back up the claim. And yet, there was a feeding frenzy in the way people ate this up and forwarded it on as fact.

Alex FBlog photo

I took the time to do some of my own research on this subject and confirmed that it is, indeed, false (metabunk.org, monsantoblog.com). It all stemmed from a story about ONE particular Monsanto location (out of hundreds), and the claim was made by Sutcliffe Catering Group, NOT Monsanto employees. Then Greenpeace (an organization with an anti-GMO agenda) jumped on board and ran with the story to the point that every time it was told, more exaggerations were added to the story until the final product is a simple photo of a cafeteria brimming with tasty looking foods and one line about how Monsanto won’t even serve its own GM foods in its own cafeterias. Without fail, people seemed to pass this false image on with the click of a button, believing it to be true.  

People have always feared new technologies and things they do not understand. That’s nothing new. Isaac Asimov capitalized upon this to sell millions of books about robots conquering the human race. What’s new is the accessibility of the Internet to promote this fear mongering with the click of a button. People have a tendency to believe what they read without ever questioning it or researching its authenticity. I admit, I have fallen into this realm at times, usually forwarding a political post that is maybe a half truth. That’s the other thing to be aware of: it’s easy to make something look or sound bad when it is taken out of context. I am much more keenly aware now and scrutinize heavily whatever I may choose to pass on. I call out friends when their posts are inaccurate. It truly is a challenge to sort out fact from fiction and definitely easier to just click that “forward” button. However, it is our responsibility to make sure what we are posting is accurate.

Aside from checking with experts in the industry to confirm or deny the truthfulness of statements, make sure you check those posts against “fact-checking sites,” which do the research for you.  You’ll be surprised at how much you read that is “sort of true.” That is to say, maybe they got the headline right but most of the story is wrong. Check your friends’ posts and people who leave comments on stories. Don’t be afraid to call them out when they are wrong…just make sure you have the evidence to back it! Here are some fact-checking sites to help in your endeavor: Snopes, Fact Check, Truth or Fiction and About.com Urban Legends.

Our Food is Safer than Ever

Food safety is a concern on everyone’s mind, from the busy mom cooking for her kids to the single man eating on the go. It is also an important issue addressed by today’s farmers and ranchers. Fortunately, the number of foodborne illnesses each year has dropped significantly in the last 100 years.

A recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites a 32-percent decline in foodborne diseases in 2009-10 compared to the five years prior. The drop can partially be credited to the Food Safety Modernization Act – a law that improves food safety by developing systems previously in place in the private sector. Before the passing of FSMA, 72 million Americans experienced a foodborne illness annually. That number is now down to 9.4 million people. There are also five federal agencies regulating at least 30 food safety-related laws, and due to this effort, food safety testing has also dramatically increased.

Vegetables 20American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman recently said although food contamination can occur at any stage in the food production process, a large number of foodborne illnesses are caused by improperly prepared or mishandled foods inside the home or restaurant. To help decrease this number further, Farm Bureaus nationwide are working to help consumers better understand food safety, from safe preparation to storage methods.

Read Stallman’s Ag Agenda column on food safety here.

An open letter to Listeria monocytogenes

Dear Listeria monocytogenes,

How are you? No need to answer, I know how you have been.

I heard what you did at Jensen Farms: getting on their melons and causing 29 deaths and 139 illnesses.

I don’t understand how you can do these things and expect to be welcome anywhere.

I don’t know how to break this to you gently, and I know this may come as a shock to you, L. monocytogenes, but people don’t really like you very much.

I’m grateful everyday that you don’t visit our farm. We don’t want you in our beef, veal or milk. We really don’t want you anywhere.

I figured that you might get the hint, when we farmers work so hard to keep you off the food we produce. We frequently clean food surfaces to take away food for you to grow on, we make our floors sloped to a drain so that you won’t have wet areas to hang out in. We sanitize our food contact surfaces daily to eliminate you, and your pathogenic buddies. We test for you, and kill you if you’re found with sanitizers, heat and any other means we can think of.

Perhaps it would be easier to keep you away if we could see you. I think that is the most difficult part. There are many things we can do to try to keep you away, but shockingly you can get into even the most well-run facilities, without anyone knowing.

Then you bring devastation. Then we detect you. You kill young, and old and sick, but you also destroy farms. You smash hopes and dreams, and cash-flow, with one bacterium. Even after we destroy you, the wreckage you leave in your path can take lifetimes to heal.

Sometimes I think about you at night L. monocytogenes, when I’m lying in bed, trying to sleep. I say a quick prayer, asking God to keep you from ever getting onto to food I make.

I don’t like what you do one bit. And neither do other farmers, or food eaters. We don’t want you on our food.

L. monocytogenes, I’m writing you this because I don’t care for you much at all.

Please stay away.

I hope you’ll understand. It isn’t personal; we just don’t want that kind of behavior from anything on our food.

I hope you will keep this in mind as you look for a place to multiply.

Please stay off our food.

-Terri, a concerned dairy farmer.