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Shifting of Food Safety Responsibility Raising Questions

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If you often find yourself heating up a frozen food entree in the microwave, you might want to take note of a recent New York Times report.  Apparently, the makers of frozen foods have found that they can’t guarantee these products won’t cause you to end up with some type of food poisoning.  So now, they are putting the burden of frozen food safety on their own customers.

According the The New York Times, because the supply chain for the meats, vegetables, and other ingredients needed to make frozen foods is so huge, the Times said that it is pretty much impossible to guarantee that no single ingredient will be tainted.  The manufacturers’ solution to this problem is to include more detailed instructions with frozen food.

One expert, Dr. Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota,  told the Times that food makers are asking too much.  “I do not believe that it is fair to put this responsibility on the back of the consumer, when there is substantial confusion about what it means to prepare that product,” Osterholm said.

The Times proved Osterholm’s point when it conducted tests of some of these instructions. For example, instructions for ConAgra Foods’ Banquet Pot Pies – which were linked to a 2007 Salmonella outbreak sickened nearly 401 people in 41 states – now read  “Internal temperature needs to reach 165° F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.”  But even when following directions, testers at the New York Times found that some spots in the ConAgra pot pies heated to only 140°, even after some of the crust was burnt.

Th Times also pointed out that  directions for Hungry Man frozen dinners instruct cooking to a temperature that is 11 degrees short of the government threshold for killing pathogens.

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