Food safety versus food choice - The Packer

Food safety versus food choice

04/27/2012 09:00:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

Fresh sprouts aren’t getting any safer, but they’re not fooling anyone either.

Recent research showed that the 1999 government-recommended process for sanitizing sprout seeds is ineffective, which confirmed what many food scientists have said.

Yet there’s little urgency on any reform.

For instance, two months ago, government, industry and research groups established the Sprouts Safety Alliance with a $100,000 grant.

Meanwhile, the group hasn’t issued any statements about its progress or launched its website, despite saying it would be operational in March.

Alliance coordinators declined to talk to us and referred questions to the Food and Drug Administration, who said a meeting is planned in late May.

There’s little outrage. Maybe it’s because most consumers have already decided fresh sprouts are on the list with rare hamburgers, raw milk and cigarettes.

People who indulge in such items seem to have determined the risk is worth it.

Sprouts’ niche consumers seem to have little interest in demanding sprouts get safer if it requires frowned-upon technology such as irradiation.

That could be the explanation for the most recent sproutbreak that happened at Jimmy John’s sandwich stores last winter. Despite the strong publicity from a December 2010 salmonella outbreak linked to Jimmy John’s sprouts that sickened 112 people in 18 states, the chain kept them on the menu.

Alas, a year later, another dozen got sick. Those affected were all female, ranging in age from 9-49.

Food safety is an important issue, but so is choice.

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