In light of recent recalls in NJ, how safe is our food supply?
A number of food recalls in New Jersey over the past two weeks alone, including everything from baby food to granola bars, might have you questioning the safety of the food supply.
State Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher pointed out that the threat of foodborne illnesses has always existed.
"When you look at these recalls, it's just better reporting. So, in a sense, because it's being reported better, you're getting more notice," said Fisher.
How can consumers protect themselves?
"It's a two-way street," Fisher said.
It's up to individuals to follow certain food handling standards, such as washing fruits and vegetables, using separate cutting boards and cooking food to the right temperature, according to Fisher, and shopping or buying from reputable retailers and growers.
"It's important to look for signs. If you see broken packages, if you see something that just doesn't look quite right, ask the person there, the retailer, whoever you're dealing with," said Fisher.
While the some of the recalls stem from handling practice or the supply chain itself, Fisher pointed out, "It doesn't necessarily mean that food is less safe. It means that we're find out more."
If a person thinks they may have been sickened by a food product, Fisher advises contacting your local health department. "They would also go to the source, because actually what we're looking for is a trace back for that," Fisher said.
Being able to trace a food source or point of contamination wasn't available in the past.
"You can have something that's been offered for sale in California, and as it's making its way across the country, we might not have known before about that. But now we do know because of the great ability that they have to be able to test for that as it's moving through the food chain," said Fisher.
"Food is actually a lot safer now because of a lot of considerations: education, food safety audits that our suppliers are dealing with on a daily basis [and] trainings that we're giving them through the department."
New Jersey is one of the leaders in the nation when it comes to providing training for farmers, according to Fisher. He said looking for "Jersey Fresh" is a great opportunity for consumers to know where their produce has come from.
"No one can guarantee this. It just can't be guaranteed that somewhere along the line some food might be contaminated or you get a foodborne illness, but really there's a lot more safety in place now than there were years ago," Fisher said.
All national recalls can be found at www.foodsafety.gov.