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Frozen Food Fiasco

May 24, 2009

 

The Peril of a Pot Pie

The Peril of a Pot Pie

 

This should sound like a familiar scenario…you go to the grocery store, beat after a full day of working and multitasking, in search of something fulfilling to eat.  You head to the frozen section because there are meals there that won’t require more than a few minutes in the microwave – or a few dollars out of your pocket.  After you’ve devoured your dish, your stomach starts to rumble like a California earthquake.   It probably never occured to you that the manufacturer required you to be responsible for ensuring the safety of your ready-to-nuke meal.  After all, didn’t you read the directions and use your cooking thermometer?

An excerpt from the May 15th New York Times posting called ‘Food Safety for People Who Don’t Cook’ explains that major frozen manufacturers like Con Agra are starting to put food safety onus on consumers, relegating the responsibility to the eater. 

“For most consumers, reheating a frozen pot pie or pizza is a matter of taste, not food safety. But with outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, makers of processed foods are now relying on consumers to follow specific, sometimes inconvenient instructions to kill pathogens in convenience foods.

How much responsibility should consumers have to bear for the safety of the processed foods they eat? Should they assume the food is safe?”

One of my favorite responses to this topic is from Ann Cooper, a chef and school food advocate, the founder of Lunch Lessons LLC and the Food Family Farming Foundation. She is co-author of “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children.”

“Large multi-national corporations started taking over our food supply a generation ago, convincing consumers that processed food would be safer and easier. If we look at advertisements from the 1950s, the message was that processed food would help mothers get out of the kitchen while providing nutritional food to their kids. The notion that processed is safer has carried over to school food service administrators all across the country, causing them to switch from roasting fresh chicken to highly processed chicken nuggets, pizza pockets and burritos, all hermetically sealed.

These plastic wrapped frozen lunch items are touted as safer because you heat them in the plastic, hold them in the plastic and serve them in the plastic, never needing to worry about contamination.

In fact these companies have gotten so good at marketing the safety of these products that most schools in our country are truly afraid of cooking raw chicken –- as if it’s a foreign object from another planet –- as opposed to a food that families have been cooking for eons.

And now, these food manufacturers — the ones that convinced us to stop cooking and that good food can come frozen in plastic -– have realized that mass production can lead to unsafe food, and so they are trying to transfer the responsibility back to consumers who no longer know how to cook.”

Here’s my response, posted on the following link:

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/15/food-safety-for-people-who-dont-cook/?apage=3#comment-79937

The bottom line is the more we migrate from the source, the less control we have over our plates.  Perhaps Home Economics and learning to cook should be a mandatory subject in schools so that future generations gain the confidence they need to prepare their own meals.  Personally, I got more out of it than Calculus. 

Food for thought…

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