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The Don't Wash It, Just Cook It mantra hasn't worked

TAGS: Commentary
The Don't Wash It, Just Cook It mantra hasn't worked
We need something new; not just another repeat of a tired old study that everyone knew was not going to show anything new.

The Food & Drug Administration said in a recent press release that 127 people have become infected with the outbreak strains of salmonella associated with pig ear dog treats.

FDA says you can become infected by handling the dog treats and caring for sick dogs that ate the treats and have essentially become a bio-weapon in your own home.

Twenty-six people were hospitalized, 24 were children and there have been no deaths.

At about the same time as this press release by FDA, the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) issued its own announcing a new study that simply reconfirmed old data that rinsing poultry only tends to spread bacteria in the kitchen sink, on the counters and on the preparer’s hands.

They quoted the deputy undersecretary Dr. Mindy Brashears advising people to stop washing poultry, basically admitting that FSIS knows the meat is contaminated too often to be safe but, unlike FDA, they do not advise against handling the product, nor do they advise not feeding it to your young children, your elderly parents or your immunocompromised household dwellers.

And, yes, this is the same Brashears that I consider a friend and was nominated over 18 months ago by President Donald Trump to become the next undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department Agriculture still awaiting Senate confirmation.

What does FSIS recommend we do to protect ourselves from foodborne illnesses from poultry? Three things, all good and common sense, but seldom followed.

  1. “Significantly decrease your risk by preparing foods that will not be cooked, such as vegetables and salads BEFORE handling and preparing raw meat and poultry.
  2. Thoroughly clean and sanitize ANY surface that has potentially touched or been contaminated from raw meat and poultry, or their juices.
  3. Destroy any illness causing bacteria by cooking meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature as measured by a food thermometer.”

But let’s step back one quick minute and remember FDA said DO NOT HANDLE raw pig ears dog treats after 127 people became sickened by them with no deaths.

The Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says 1.4 million people become sickened by salmonella every year in this country, and 1,000 die. Granted, a small percentage contract their illnesses from dog treats and petting zoos, but the majority are from foods intended for human consumption.

In fact, another recent FSIS release stated that in the last year of testing chicken parts for salmonella, 15% of chicken and poultry plants showed more than 25% of tests were positive for salmonella.

Their advice to us? Don’t wash it.

Granted, these are two very different governmental agencies responsible for the great majority of foods we eat or, in the case of pigs’ ears dog treats, foods we handle.

But I think the different approaches in these latest announcements that pale when compared to the relative risk to me and you between handling raw poultry products and pig ear dog treats represents the industry behind the products.

No one ever accused the pet food industry of running FDA, but I certainly hear repeatedly that big ag runs USDA.

I can’t speak for current USDA/FSIS policymakers, but I think we did some things in the Bush Administration that upset the industry a great deal and tried for even more but were blocked by Congress.

They did not run us then, and I doubt they do now knowing the key players.

That said, when I am advised by FDA not to handle certain dog treats, nor feed them to my pets, but FSIS tells me I can make chicken safer by following three simple recommendations and go ahead and feed it to my grandkids, even while CDC is acknowledging that 1.4 million Americans will be sickened with salmonella each year, mostly from foods we eat, I feel a deep need for a change in attitudes in Washington, D.C.

The Don't Wash It, Just Cook It mantra over the last 15 years or so has not reduced salmonella infections rates one iota.

We need something new; not just another repeat of a tired old study that everyone knew was not going to show anything new.

BTW, I wonder what we paid for this “new” study with its “new” revelations?

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