Consumers have a right to be scared, outraged and anxious about the recent Salmonella and E. coli outbreaks in peanut butter and spinach. It’s disconcerting to know that bacteria could be swimming all over our food. Unfortunately, with ingredients lists that many times are multiple lines long, food producers are increasingly at a loss for how to watch over the safety of every single ingredient in their products. Instead, many of them are handing the responsibility over to consumers.
Instead of revising their processes to prevent contamination, a New York Times article reported that many big companies are just adding more prep instructions for consumers to follow to ensure their food is bacteria-free. Frozen pot pie maker ConAgra foods, for example, revised its instructions to include the requirement that a food’s “internal temperature needs to reach 165° F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots” before eating. Other companies are recommending that consumers use the oven instead of the microwave to heat up frozen food. Some people are proposing that consumers just focus on washing food properly and buying only local and organic produce.
Where should the responsibility really lie? With the farmer, the producer, the consumer—or all three? As meals go through more and more steps before reaching the table , should we have a perpetual fear of our food? What do you do to gain confidence that your food is safe?