Keeping Healthy Foods Safe
Growing recognition of the impact of potential environmental hazards on human health has created heightened concern and confusion about the safety of nutritious foods ― like fresh produce and fish ― that we're encouraged to eat.
As many families strive to eat more nutritiously by including lots of fish and produce in their diet, concern has grown about the safety of these foods. Produce now accounts for 6% of the outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, up sharply from previous years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And outbreaks of food-borne illness due to E. coli contamination in spinach and salmonella contamination in tomatoes sent a strong reminder to consumers in 2006 about the importance of taking food safety precautions. Other messages about nutrition and food safety are not as clear. Though seafood has long been promoted as a good source of protein that's beneficial to heart and brain health, there's increasing concern about chemicals in seafood and the risks to younger children and unborn babies. In June 2006, Consumer Reports advised pregnant women to avoid eating tuna because its mercury content could potentially harm a developing fetus. The advisory challenged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's position that it's safe for pregnant women to eat small amounts of tuna.
What to Watch:
With many experts predicting more produce contamination cases, government officials will need to reexamine whether regulators have the resources and strategy to handle an increasingly complex job. Some have called for a single agency devoted to food safety to replace the patchwork of more than a dozen agencies that now handle the job. Ultimately, however, because the journey from farm to table often spans the globe, it will fall to parents to take more responsibility for ensuring the healthfulness and safety of the food they put on the table. Currently, that's not an easy task.
Go to the next Issue to Watch
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2015 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.