Wednesday, December 22, 2010

House passes "biggest food safety overhaul in 70 years"

U.S. food safety system is preparing for massive reform.  It’s time to loosen up the belt for the holiday season, but are you taking adequate measures to prevent an untimely bout with food poisoning?

The House of Representatives just passed legislation that is being called “[the] biggest overhaul in more than 70 years.” (MSNBC) This legislation has already cleared the Senate and just needs Obama’s signature. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food-borne illnesses kill 3,000 people a year in the U.S and sicken another 48 million.  The legislation would empower the FDA to recall food even if a business doesn’t want to voluntarily recall the tainted item itself, and would also place further accountability on food manufacturers to take more in-depth measures that would prevent contamination.

It is important to distinguish between real food poisoning and Gastroenteritis, a condition that causes similar symptoms.  Food poisoning occurs due to bacteria presence in food or drink, whereas gastroenteritis is caused by a bacterial or viral infection.  Both can cause diarrhea and vomiting, and young children and the elderly are more susceptible to dehydration.

How cold should my fridge be?  “The most favorable temperatures for bacterial growth are in the range of 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit,” explains WVU extension service on Refrigerator and Freezer Safety. 

What about freezing food? Freezing meats and other food does slow bacteria growth, but it is important not to refreeze food after you thaw it because bacteria is dormant while frozen but still able to resume growth.  Frozen food should be stored at around 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

Image: savit keawtavee /

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