Thursday, February 10, 2011
CONTAMINATED READY-TO-EAT FOODS
One of the consistent arguments of The Safe Food Handbook is that ready-to-eat (RTE) foods are likely to be more risky. This applies to meat products as well as non-meat RTE foods. And it's the same everywhere - not just in the United States and Canada.
Did you notice in the previous blog ("The Food Recall Myth") that almost all of the items on the 2010 6-month list of USDA recalls fell into that category (fried pork loaf, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, potstickers and so on - take a look). In fact, it was a bad year for RTE products, particularly those containing meat or based on meat.
Here's what I found for 2010 as a whole (12 months - but I included only recalls linked to possible contaminants of one kind or another - not those for mislabeling, an undeclared allergen or ingredient): 73% of the recalls by the USDA were for ready-to-eat products. This was up considerably from 2009, where the majority of such food recalls (22 compared to 19) were for uncooked fresh or frozen meat - usually ground beef products.
Why? I bet it's at least partly because we are cooking less and less and eating more and more of the "grab and go" type of foods. Alright, I perfectly sympathize with the woman who wrote in and said that after a day's work, when she was too tired to cook, it was at least a step up from fast food. Agreed. But it's a step down from a 10-15 minute, "frig to plate" fresh-cooked meal.
OK - I'm super fast, but yes, you can make a great though simple dinner for two based on fresh products in that time (complex ones naturally take longer). Of course, another way to do it is what one of my busy but health-conscious friends (who up to recently lived alone) does: she goes to the farmer's market on the weekend and then fresh cooks and freezes dinners for the weekdays ahead. OK, maybe a bit limiting, but certainly less risky.
We live in the real world. Most of us end up compromising on RTE foods, and eat them at least once in a while. But let's try to do it less often. This is a growing eating trend - but not a healthy one.