From farm to fork
Oct 9th 2009
Bar codes that let shoppers trace their food back to the field
DESPITE its preoccupation with hygiene, America's dirty secret is that it is one of the most dangerous places in the developed world to eat. Every year 76m Americans become ill because they have consumed contaminated food—a staggering 26,000 cases per 100,000 population. In Britain, where people consume far fewer hamburgers, generally eat out less often and buy nowhere near as many ready-meals, there are 3,400 cases of food poisoning per 100,000 population annually. France is safer still, with only 1,200 annual instances per 100,000 people.
Most cases of food poisoning are mild, with victims recovering in a day or two. Sometimes, however, foodborne illnesses kill or cause permanent health problems. In the United States around 5,000 people die and a further 325,000 wind up in hospital each year as a result of food poisoning. The annual cost to the country, in medical treatment and lost productivity, is more than $35 billion.
The wave of food scares that has swept America over the past few years has caused a crisis in the country's $1 trillion food industry. One of the most notorious outbreaks, caused by the virulent Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacterium, happened in 1993. Four children died, dozens of people went to hospital with kidney failure and hundreds more became seriously ill after eating undercooked hamburgers from the Jack-in-the-Box chain of restaurants. Since then, the regulations governing the sale of ground beef have been tightened considerably.
The deadliest foods to be found on the stalls in street markets and the shelves of supermarkets, though, are not meat or poultry but leafy vegetables and fruit. That is because unlike ground beef, which is cooked at a temperatures which destroy bugs, fruit and leafy vegetables tend to be eaten raw. The outbreak of O157 in 2006, which killed five people and made a further 205 ill, was tied to raw spinach. Meanwhile, America's largest epidemic of foodborne disease in over a decade—last year's Salmonella infection that claimed two lives, hospitalised 250 people and affected more than 1,300 others—was traced back through the supply chain initially to tomatoes and then to jalapeño peppers. Now there are doubts whether either was really to blame.
Tracking down the source of a foodborne infection is notoriously difficult. The vast majority of incidents are transitory in nature—a leaky toilet, a wandering animal, a momentary lapse of hygiene in the field or factory. '
The rest of the article ends up being an advertorial for
RFID tags & their vendors.
Conclusion don't eat in the US.