Have you ever wondered how long food really lasts after preparation? How about that turkey dinner? Do the mashed potatoes, a hearty root vegetable, last longer than cranberries? As American’s work weeks increase, currently 47 hours a week, prepared food has become the new national dinner. American families are heating up food
prepared in deli’s and take home sections in almost any store. It may be easy but is it safe?
Upton Sinclair’s, The Jungle, changed our lives when it opened the eyes of President Teddy Roosevelt to the actual decaying food we were provided by manufacturers. The FDA was signed into law in 1906 but very little has occurred for our safety since then. We have several laws including the Cottage Food Laws regarding food preparation but none regarding how to handle prepared food once it’s at home. As prepared foods grow to a $26
billion dollar industry it’s time for regulation. Regulations must require prepared foods have a visible expiration date, a made-on date and nutritional facts.
Give Me A Pound Of Listeria-Thin Sliced
A national law regarding prepared food information can decrease the 1 in 6 Americans poisoned by food borne illnesses. Food dating is required on all products on shelves but not in the deli. When we purchase a pound of ham a general date of “sell by” is placed with the price. Americans generally believe the “sell by” date is the expiration but it’s not. According to FDA standards, deli meats last 3-5 days after the “product” is opened. The product is the piece of meat which our slices are extracted. Have you ever gone to the deli and seen a person unwrap a previously sliced deli piece of meat or cheese? Sure, it’s the norm. But how long has it been sitting since the last slices were extracted? If that meat is only good for 3-5 days since that deli meat was originally opened, then the consumers shelf life is even shorter. According to the FDA, 2500 people contract Listeria with 1 in 5 dying. Blame the deli lunch meat for the majority of the listeria. It lurks in lunch meat that sits too long. A national law needs to require deli’s to post deli meat expiration for the entire piece of meat, not just the slices, for each purchase. We could call it a little
slice of safety.
The Signs of the Future
Have you ever bought a dinner meal from the deli or “prepared food” section at the store? Maybe a slice of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and a veggie. Well, maybe you didn’t get a chance to eat it the day you bought it or the day after. On day three you dive in. Twenty minutes later food poisoning sets in. And the rest is history. Again,
the actual date each of the different foods were created would assist consumers on safe eating. Meatloaf,
mashed potatoes and veggies all have differing safety times. They can or must be stored at differing temperatures or in different places. A national law must include made-on dates for each product of prepared foods. If each food was made on different dates than we would know how long each product will last. Each food/product should have a small date on it’s tag with “made-on” date. That meatloaf may not last three days but the mashed potatoes might. The more we know, the healthier we are.
How Much Salt Is In Prepared Foods?
It took nearly a century to have foods labeled with nutritional values including sodium. As heart disease continues its progressive race across America, food is the still the number one cause. As the prepared food industry rises, more people are buying food that is a health risk. Over 15 million Americans have food allergies and more are on restricted diets. These are the same Americans working 40 or more with less and less time for home food preparation. Many times people buy prepared foods wondering what the nutritional value is beyond the trending “glutton free”. The price tags may include all the ingredients (mostly still in scientific language) but not how much of each ingredient. A diabetic, now over 30% of Americans, may need to monitor grams of carbohydrates and sugar. A national law must require all foods to have full nutritional values just like that of McDonald’s. The food service industry may have shifted to stores but the quality of consumer information should be instituted. Food knowledge is safety for Americans.
As we move from leftovers to dinner time makeovers, Americans deserve to remain safe in their own fridge. The more we know, the safer we are.
For more information on food safety activism check out Politics
of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century
America by Emily E. LB. Twarog.