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Sources and Recalls

September 9, 2010

Snails Are Fish Too...

During a recent food safety class, I had one of the attendees ask a question I couldn't answer: On what refrigerator shelf would I store escargot?  Instantly, my mouth closed and I began to get the feeling that I had missed the memo and was somehow in the middle of an episode of "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader."  Yes-- I was stumped, rendered speechless me... the ever talkative one.   AH! I had no idea.  Not like snails are a hot item here in Missoula, but nonetheless... I should know!  So what did I do?  What every good little food nerd should... got online, then contacted the USDA, then contacted the regional outpost of the FDA who then forwarded me to the district FDA rep.  Finally, the fabulous Brad Tufto came through like Alanis in Dogma-- snails are fish too, he said, at least they are according  to the 2009 FDA Food Code.

So what does this mean?  Well, even though we do not think of snails as having gills or fins, the Food Code somehow does.  That means we must keep snails with the fish and shellfish in the cooler, above all other raw products but below all ready-to-eat items.  They must be cooked to at least 145F before service and all of the usual hot and cold holding requirements must be followed.  Lastly, while shell tags and freeze kill paperwork do not accompany these slimy little buggers like their fish and shellfish counterparts, you do have to make sure that you get the devils from a reputable snail dealer.  Yes... no lemons... and no, I'm not meaning the fruit.

Cross-Contamination; Sources/Recalls; Temperature/Time
July 28, 2010

Food Safety Modernization Act: Suppliers Should Earn Our Trust

We in the United States take our food supply for granted.  When we sit down to dinner, whether at home or in a restaurant, we automatically assume that the food in front of us is safe.  We trust that the produce, meats, spices and other ingredients were produced in accordance with all laws and regulations, and believe that any facility involved maintains sanitary conditions and practices.  Yet recent estimates say that 112-115 million people are sickened each year in the United States with foodborne illness, and according to Eric Schlosser's article, "Unsafe at Any Meal", the annual deaths from foodborne illness is "roughly the same as the number of Americans who've been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003".  

Did that sit you a little further back in your seat?  It should have.

But don't think these startling statistics are going unnoticed.  The Food Safety Modernization Act, was recommended to the Senate by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last November.  The act hopes to improve the US food supply both internally and externally, targeting not only our facilities here in the US, our recall policies, and ability to do tracebacks, but also tightens requirements for foreign suppliers.  These improvements may mean tighter regulations, but a safer food supply.  All I need to say is 'peanut butter' to drive that point home within our own borders, and the latter concern, regarding foreign produced food, is now more important than ever since China, a country associated with lead and melamine tainted food, has now become one of our top foreign suppliers. 

As the amount of food that spills over our borders continues to climb along with the number of illnesses within our own country, we really need stop and take focus.  Foodborne illness affects all of us, but can be deadly to the elderly, the very young and the infirm.  We need to take steps to ensure the apple juice our little ones drink did not come from a tainted supply from China, or the peanut butter gramma puts on her toast is not riddled with Salmonella.  I am not saying we should loose faith in our food supply, I am saying we need to become better educated consumers and ask for suppliers to earn our trust.  Supporting legislation like the Food Safety Modernization Act and learning where your food really comes from is the first step in making that happen. 

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