Dear Ones:If you read my articles or get my NEWSLETTER, you know that I make it my business to stay on top of any and all food, drug, herb, supplement and medical device 'recalls'. I thought it might be interesting for you to learn exactly what I do to protect my own health and those of my loved ones on a daily basis when it comes to PRODUCE and here it is:
1) I check for current recall news at http://www.fda.gov/, http://www.cdc.gov/ and at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/ and any and all academic and news sources, as necessary.
2) I LOOK at the quality of the produce I am buying. I do the old 'COA'-color, odor, and appearance check.
3) I CHECK the quality and integrity of the packaging, if there is any.
4) I tend to 'skip' the open salad bars. I bypass produce piles at shoulder level where people will cough and sneeze on them.
5) I WASH everything I buy, even if it says 'already washed'. Use massive amounts of fresh running water. 'Hard produce' like potatoes get a scrubbing with a brush and a bit of some non-perfumey liquid soap/detergent. It is difficult to adequately disinfect berries and soft produce, so eating them is something of an act of faith. Personally, I test out a few lettuce leaves (for example) as I am making dinner. Any dessert fruit, too!
6) If any produce doesn't look right, taste right or if the package is breached, I THROW it out! Please don't feed suspect produce to the critters outside, for if the produce can harm you, it can harm them as well. All mammalian systems are designed by the Great Designer and Creator to live with and depend upon 'good microbes'. But the microbes often in question are the harmful 'pathogens'. In the case of lettuce, they are a bacterial strain of the intestinal E. coli gone bad. Be sure to dispose of bad produce properly, so that it is sure to not get into anyone's 'food supply chain', anywhere.
7)YES 'one is CONTAGIOUS' when infected with E.coli O145 or some other bacteria or protozoan (or even virus if someone with the flu sneezes on your store's broccoli section) etc, as far as their feces are concerned. So DO practice good toilet and hand hygiene at all times.
8) I use gloves when handling food for my family, especially since I cook for cancer survivors, immunocompromised persons and those who are, at times, post-operative. Also, if you have any open wound on your hands, protect it from being contaminated by food, again by wearing gloves. I recommend and use non-latex gloves. You may not have a problem with latex, but you may be handling the food of someone who is. Just remember that 'gloves can get contaminated, too'. I wash my gloved hands, too, as needed, and ditch and replace gloves after handling raw meat, fish, or anything greasy or oily. This may sound like a lot of waste, but it really helps. Be sure to properly dispose of gloves, of course, and use paper towels for contaminated 'spills' with proper disposal too!
9) Report any significant produce problems to the manager at your grocery store or restaurant. He or she will be most appreciative for the input. In this day and age of terrorism, threats to our 'food supply'...bulk, especially...have been a very real and on-going concern as we have received bonafide threats and learned of 'food-contamination' plans. It goes without saying that you must alert the authorities immediately if you witness anyone tampering with anything at all in any food store. Do so without jeopardizing your own safety, of course. After notifying store and law officials, you may also report directly:
CRIMINAL ACTIVITY REPORT: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/email/oc/oci/contact.cfm
EMERGENCY(serious, life-threatening food-related event) : FDA's 24-hour emergency line at 301-443-1240 OR FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator3 in your geographic area: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm
Also contact your health care professional for medical, of course
NON-EMERGENCY Food-related (such as allergic reaction to a product with no allergens listed in ingredients; a non-life-threatening foodborne illness) in food products (except meat, poultry, and frozen, dried and liquid eggs) FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator6 in your geographic area.
ANIMAL FOOD PROBLEM-Pet food, animal feed http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm
I hope these hints help you out in protecting the health of yourself and those around you. As always, be sure to seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider for any and all health concerns. But remember that your 'everyday well-being' depends largely upon YOU!
God Bless You Today and Always,
Reverend Barbara Sexton