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The importance of ensuring the safety of the nation's food supply is becoming more apparent every day. When one thinks of salmonella risk, it is doubtful that cereal would come to mind. Think again. In late May, Malt-O-Meal recalled 2-3 million pounds of cereal after almost 200 people in several states became sick from a rare strain of salmonella called agona after eating the company's Millville-brand Toasted Oats. Thirty-nine brand names of plain toasted oat cereals were involved in the recall. Stores affected included Jewel, Lucky, Safeway, A & P, Cub, Eagle, and IGA. It is still unknown how the cereal became contaminated.
Just a few weeks ago, researchers announced that a new strain of salmonella called typhimurium or DT104, is resistant to five common antibiotics. Fluroquinoline antibiotics remain effective, but experts don't know how long it will remain so. It is estimated that of the 4 million Americans contracting salmo-nella annually, about 68,000 to 340,000 [Who said you had to be accurate? Ed.] are sickened by DT104. The strain which has emerged in the last decade, is blamed on the practice of feeding livestock antibiotics to boost their market weight. Of the 50 million pounds of antibiotics produced in the U.S. each year, 16 million pounds is fed to livestock. It will be interesting to see if antibiotics are addressed in any food safety measures being proposed by the White House.
The Centers for Disease Control attributes 20,000 cases of food poisoning annually to E. coli contami-nation in ground beef. In June, Costco, a large member wholesaler, recalled tons of frozen ground beef patties from their outlets in 24 states. USDA regulations require commercial meat packaging facilities to thoroughly wash meat grinding machinery when different types of meat are ground. However, investigations at several large market chains by television news magazines have found that the prac-tice was rarely followed.
Approximately 45% of all meat purchased in the U.S. is ground beef. Consider protecting your family by buying a food processor and grinding your own beef. Even a $150 Cuisinart - I've had mine for 25 years - is money well spent compared to the cost of one trip to the Emergency Room. Your grocery bill will be lower because chuck roasts typically cost a dollar or more less per pound than lean ground beef. Last, but not least, you will know what is in your ground beef!
E. coli contamination is not limited to ground beef. Recently, 6,500 people were sickened by E. coli after eating Potato Salad from a Chicago deli and 2,500 more after eating raspberries imported from Guatemala.
To his credit, the President requested $43.2 million in his 1998 budget to strengthen and improve food safety. Over $100 million will be in his fiscal 1999 budget. The main areas of the President's Food Safety Initiative are:
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