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Food Contamination can affect Your Health

E. Coli bacteria E. Coli Bacteria

All peanut products processed by the Peanut Corporation of America in Blakely, Georgia were recently recalled because they were contaminated with salmonella bacteria. Hundreds of people got food poisoning from eating peanut products manufactured by the company, and several people died. According to press reports, when the company found a sample that was contaminated, they did not make any effort to remedy the unsanitary conditions that had caused the bacterial contamination. Instead, they would submit a sample to a different laboratory until the sample passed. The contaminated products were then marketed and distributed as usual.

Contamination of food is widespread, but usually it does not cause death or illness. The most common types of contamination in foods are caused by spoilage by fungi and bacteria, by infestation with insects, or by rodent hair and rodent excrement.

It is almost impossible to keep food from being contaminated, so the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established limits above which action will be taken. Contamination below those levels is not considered dangerous for human health. For example, the FDA rules state that apple butter may be eaten safely as long as it has less than 4 rodent hairs per 100 grams, or less than 5 or more whole or equivalent insects (not counting mites, aphids, thrips, or scale insects) per 100 grams.[1] It is interesting that small insects like aphids don't even count.

The story about the contaminated peanuts continues to develop. On February 15, 2009, the Washington Post reported that The Peanut Corporation of America, headed by Stewart Parnell had filed for bankruptcy protection and that Parnell was the target of a federal criminal investigation. According to the report:
"He is accused by federal investigators of intentionally sending into the stream of commerce peanut products contaminated with salmonella bacteria. The government has directly linked Parnell's peanuts to nine deaths and 637 cases of salmonella illness in 44 states and Canada, with thousands more illnesses suspected."

Parnell's lax sanitation practices have forced the recall of more than 2,000 products, many of which affected well-known brands such as Kellogg, Sara Lee, and Little Debbie. Farmers and food manufacturers have suffered great financial losses as a result of the decreased demand for peanut products caused by the fear of food poisoning.

The willful distribution of products contaminated with bacteria could be interpreted as just another example of corporate greed, but the massive scale of this case puts it more in the category of an act of bioterrorism.
Learn more about bacteria

[1] The Food Defect Levels Handbook. Levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards for humans.

© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora