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Concerns for Food Safety Around the World

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  • 0:02 Food Safety
  • 0:18 Who Keeps Our Food Safe?
  • 1:54 What Should We Be…
  • 3:50 How to Counter this Threat
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will explore the importance of food safety, who's in charge of food safety, what we're trying to combat, and how you can take action at home to keep yourself safe.

Food Safety

Food safety goes beyond thoroughly cooking your food and washing your hands. This lesson describes some of the nasty things that you're avoiding with all that cooking and washing. We'll also explore the interesting points about food safety that affect everyone around the world.

Who Keeps Our Food Safe?

The first thing we need to stop and think about is who is actually in charge of food safety? With respect to this, one of the first lines of defense for maintaining public health and safety isn't your local doctor, police officer, or politician, it's actually a veterinarian. Well, more than one, of course. They do more than just keep your dog or cat healthy. Veterinarians make sure that millions of humans are protected from deadly diseases. They also ensure that the economic health of the massive food industry stays, well, healthy.

Food safety veterinarians make sure that food animals within a country or being imported from another country are healthy, do not have dangerous zoonotic diseases, and that food (including meat, milk, and eggs) is safe for consumption. Zoonotic diseases, by the way, are diseases that can be passed from an animal to a human.

U.S. veterinarians actually travel to countries around the world to make sure food safety programs are as up to speed as possible. That's because we live in a globalized society, and if a country we import food or animals from is facing serious infectious disease problems, then the population of the U.S. is placed at a higher risk for getting sick as well. These veterinarians, and countless other researchers, scientists, and personnel protecting your health on a daily basis, serve as part of numerous government organizations, including the FDA, USDA, and CDC.

What Should We Be Concerned About?

Of course, while animal products are a big concern in terms of food safety, that doesn't mean the plants you eat are always safe. In either case, foodborne illnesses can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever, pain, and much more. The young, pregnant, and elderly are at much higher risk of serious complications and resulting death if left untreated.

Despite a lot of effort on the part of our government and its employees, thousands of people die every year from foodborne illnesses in the U.S., over 75 million people get sick, and more than $150 billion is spent on medical treatment for these problems. The reason most of these problems occur has to do with microbes, microscopic organisms such as bacteria and parasites, which are located on improperly made, washed, or cooked food.

The pathogens, or disease-causing agents, that are most commonly responsible for foodborne illnesses are:

  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Norovirus
  • Salmonella
  • E. coli
  • Clostridium botulinum
  • Shigella
  • Listeria monocytogenes

In some cases, even proteins can cause disease, as per the famous mad cow disease, more technically called bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Furthermore, food safety goes beyond just protecting yourself from microbes or in very rare cases abnormal proteins that cause disease. Don't forget that chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides, are commonly used on fruits and vegetables you eat. These chemicals have been linked to causing disease in people.

How to Counter this Threat

While government and industry officials do their best to counter the threat of foodborne illness and try to control the amount and type of chemicals being used on our food, there are many reasons why this isn't enough. You must also take charge of protecting yourself from potentially deadly diseases found in food.

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