Outbreaks Question Food Safety

Gelila Negesse , Designer

Salmonella and E.Coli outbreaks have been ravaging foods around the U.S. with millions of recalls happening almost weekly. These constant recalls have raised questions about the safety of our food production.

A food outbreak is when more than two people get sick after ingesting food or a drink that has been contaminated and is one of the various reasons a food can be recalled along with the mislabelling of foods or potential allergens in the product. The CDC has estimated that these outbreaks affect up to 48 million people yearly.

Food outbreak prevention can be at the beginning of food production down to the consumer level. According to the Orange County Health Care Agency, foodborne outbreaks can happen due to improper holding temperatures of potentially hazardous foods, improper cooking temperatures, contaminated equipment, poor employee hygiene and unsafe food sources.

“I don’t think enough is being done to stop these outbreaks,” sophomore Zora Szabo said. “They need to put out more safety protocols to help prevent this.”

Although we see many outbreaks because of poor food production, these outbreaks directly affect consumers. Consider one of the biggest food franchises in the U.S.: Chipotle. From Ohio to Texas, Chipotle locations were being accused of food poisoning from the bacteria Clostridium perfringens, which affects 1 million people yearly, according to the CDC.

“[food outbreaks] makes me feel alarmed,” sophomore Devorah Segura said. “When these recalls happen it makes me wonder if the food I consume daily is safe.”

The CDC has called for investigations to start at the beginning of an outbreak to minimize the damage it can cause. Investigations can help improve scientific explanations about a certain outbreak and can be used as future reference.

“I think this is becoming too common,” Segura said. “I don’t think the government is doing enough to prevent this.”

The future of food outbreaks and recalls is looking at new blockchain technology that can track food from farm to plate. Restaurants, like McDonald’s and Chipotle, can use this to ensure they are receiving and serving safe food.

“I hope in the future the food we eat is properly washed, stored and labeled so that food outbreaks don’t happen again,” Szabo said. “It’s the simplest measures that need to be taken seriously.”