The Checkout

What's In Your Gullet?

We're almost a week into the Deadly Spinach Outbreak. And it's good to know not everyone is filled with panic.

Reader CyanSquirrel has just one thing to say about E. coli, that nasty intestinal lining-attacking bug: Bring it on!
"Gee, if I had to choose between poop exposure, something that may harbor bacteria a healthy well-maintained body can fend off or handle, and pesticide/hormone/unnatural substance exposure, which causes a host of cumulative effects the human body is not designed to endure...I'd pick poop any day."

Reader Erika says E. coli is giving pesticides a good name.
"I think it shows the naturally caused bacteria can be even more harmful than the chemicals that we've produced. IF it wasn't for chemicals, you wouldn't even be typing on a computer and downplaying the benefits of technology!"

And Gary Masters thinks it's time to go nuclear.
"This is a job for irradiation. If we were not so well protected from the irradiation devices, we would have a system in place to protect us from E. coli and many other food diseases. Our fear of something that has never harmed us has allowed E. coli to kill us."

While we're on the topic of food safety, I'd like to know what all of you think of a bill pending in Congress that would replace state labeling laws with one uniform federal standard.

(I know, I've been beating the Capitol Hill thing to death lately, but bear with me. Congress is headed out of town soon, and we'll know shortly the fate of some of these bills that, if passed, could have have serious implications for consumers.)

On the pro side: There already are federal rules for nutrition labeling, prescription drugs and medical devices.
On the anti side: It potentially could gut tougher state rules, in particular a 20-year-old law in California that requires warning labels on foods that contain chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.

The bill has already passed the House and is sitting in a Senate Committee. So it's got some legs.
What do you want to know about your food? Tell me here.

By Annys Shin |  September 20, 2006; 9:04 AM ET Consumer News
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Just wanted to let you know that the link to the bill doesn't work (Thomas says search results expire after some lenghth of time).

Posted by: Anonymous | September 20, 2006 9:44 AM

This is a case where irradiation would rid the produce of viable bacteria but leave us edible food.

Posted by: wisconsinresident | September 20, 2006 9:53 AM

Well, California Prop 65 is a joke anyway, everyone just ignores the labels and it's now just become a way for lawyers to get rich. I think anything that will reverse that trend is a good thing.

Posted by: Cleetus8 | September 20, 2006 10:07 AM

Nowadays with all the information on a food lable, just about everything is out in the open. I'm a habitual label reader and often buy the store brand of a product because it has the exact ingredients of a national brand. Excedrin is an example. The Giant store brand of pain reliever is identical, but about half the price. Also, the Excedrin Arthritis is identical to the regular Excedrin, but pricier. Wise up, folks, read labels and save your money. I would like the term 'spices' identified since that covers a multitude of sins. There are some spices, sage for instance, that I don't like and don't want it in my food.

One other item -- My dad worked at a meat-packing plant after he returned from WWII. He would never eat hot dogs or lunch meat (cold cuts to you educated folks). He saw the conditions of slaughterhouses and he knew what went into those products. He called them 'the scrapings from the floor.' He also saw a co-worker lose a finger in a slicer one day. So, word to the wise. Don't eat hot dogs or lunch meat. Read "Fast Food Nation" and "The Jungle" and you'll quickly become vegetarian.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | September 20, 2006 10:09 AM

You cannot trust the food labels anyway. Remember the last minute slip into a bill that redefined what organically raised chicken is? I trust that USDA organic seal less than any other.

The EPA and USDA have been manipulated through a variety of trade groups. There was recently a move afoot to permit the use of chemicals unless they were shown to be harmful. The old way was to demonstrate the chemicals were safe first before allowing them to be used in production.

Remember you are what your food eats - if your veggies and livestock eat junk, you are eating that same junk. It is possible to get good yields while limiting pesticides. Americans need to stop thinking about living to eat, and start eating to live. That would take care of a lot of health issues.

Posted by: Montgomery co. | September 20, 2006 11:34 AM

Given how corrupt congress is, not sure that I trust them to work in the citizen's best interest as opposed to the food industry's interests.

Posted by: Brent | September 20, 2006 2:41 PM

Here's a link to information on the food labeling bill (it's been corrected in the item as well):

Posted by: | September 20, 2006 4:58 PM

What do I want to know about my food? Where it comes from. And don't say "some organic farm in California." 75% of my food this summer came from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a farm within 10 miles of my home. The tractor runs on biodiesel, the food's organic, and I know the farmers. Best of all, it tastes great.

Posted by: vermont | September 25, 2006 3:12 PM

If you're interested in food irradiation, but are scared by the sound of it, don't be. I did a research project and found it to be an amazing process- putting good use to a substance that before was used to spread fall-out in bombs! As a hammer can be used to build a house or beat someone over the head, so can radiation be used to protect people and even curb world hunger!

I confirmed that the irradiation of food (exposure to radioactive isotope cobalt 60)dramatically increases the shelf life of many foods by sterilizing them; therefore making bacteria start over. A follow up project found that there is some small vitamin loss- but this is better than the alternative of decayed food, which had no nutritive value (except to flies). :)

It's certainly a viable alternative to E. Coli, and better than throwing away billions of dollars in food every year that could have gone to hungry people- if you've ever seen how often a grocery store has to throw away produce to "rotate stock," you know what I mean! Now imagine that on a global scale...lots of wasted food!

Posted by: Chris | September 28, 2006 11:35 AM

*It should be no substitute for good food handling though!

Posted by: Chris | September 28, 2006 11:41 AM

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