Spoiled: The Dangerous Truth about a Food Chain Gone Haywire

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9780140275551: Spoiled: The Dangerous Truth about a Food Chain Gone Haywire

Spoiled apple juice. Tainted fast-food hamburgers. Contaminated raspberries. As reports of food-borne disease make the headlines with alarming regularity, we are beginning to wonder if every bite we take poses a risk. Are these food scares mere hype and hysteria, or is there a bigger and more frightening story behind the headlines? Journalist Nicols Fox tells in arresting detail what has happened to food and why. Drawing from scientific and medical journals and more than 100 interviews with epidemiologists, physicians, food scientists, USDA and FDA officials, farmers, distributors, and consumer victims, her findings are fascinating, provocative, and terrifying. Spoiled reveals--for the first time--how in the last twenty-five years we lost control of our food supply to a tangled and messy chain of factory farming and processing, high-tech packaging, mass distributors, and importing and exporting. By changing the way we produce, process, distribute, store, and prepare food, we have upset the subtle ecological balances of the food chain--and we have only begun to pay the price.

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Review:

Despite frequent media accounts of such unpleasant matters as mad cow disease and outbreaks of food poisoning at fast-food restaurants, Nicols Fox argues, we know too little about the threat that current methods of food manufacture and distribution pose to health. Citing Center for Disease Control figures that put the food poisoning count alone at more than 81 million cases a year in the United States, she notes that in many countries it is unsafe to eat the skins of uncooked vegetables, eggs, ground meat, and other staples. Part of the problem lies in advances in transportation and storage technology, which allow us to consume foods grown very far away and at all seasons; part lies in the fact that bacteria are evolving to survive efforts to contain them. Fox's book is alarming--but appropriately so.

From Booklist:

Journalist Fox investigated the fast-food hamburgers tainted with E. coli bacteria that were making people sick--and killing children--on the West Coast in 1993. Her study of food-borne disease here is concerned with our nation's food, especially the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors outbreaks of disease and food contaminants. She uncovers such pathogens as Salmonella in unpasteurized orange juice at Disney World, Cryptosporidium in freshly pressed cider from apples that were not thoroughly washed, and Listeria, which obstinately thrives in chilled oxygen-poor conditions, e.g., packages of precut salad greens. She devotes a chapter to British cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or as it is popularly dubbed, mad cow disease, and she discusses the microbial threats of food imports and the workers who take foodstuffs from the ground or feedlot to the marketplace. "If we are interested in the safety of our food," she writes, "then we have to be interested in the living conditions of the people who handle it." A well-documented tocsin for food toxins. Jennifer Henderson

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