The recent recall of commercial eggs has led to lots of questions about food safety. Unprecedented numbers of people, many of them new to farmer’s markets, are flocking (pardon the pun) to purchase eggs that they believe to be safer than those in the grocery store. But there are some missing pieces in the search for “clean and safe food”; it’s not as simple as “buy fresh, buy local”
As Americans have become further removed from their food supply, they have lost touch with the fact that food is a biological product, produced in biological situations from biological animals that have biological functions. Translation: everything poops. We have gotten so used to our food being sterilized that we have forgotten about basic food safety. I also happen to believe that because we are not exposed to low levels of normally occuring bacteria as we grow up, when we do encounter these normal bugs, they give us a pathogenic reaction.
ALL foods are subject to ‘conatimination’. Salmonella occurs in all birds and reptiles. It is usually not a pathogenic strain, but it is still there. Similarly, various strains of E. coli are present in every bit of feces. Pastuerization, irradiation, buying direct from a farmer you trust; none of these are substitutes for basic food safety.
Do I think eggs and ground beef are safer if you buy them from a local source that you can trust? Generally, yes. However, even the cleanest hen house will still produce eggs with salmonella on the outside. Even single-animal, small plant, grass-fed ground beef can harbor E. coli. So, follow basic food safety guidelines: Separate preparation areas and utensils between raw items and cooked. Refrigerate food quickly after cooking, etc. etc.
If you want to read more, search our Food Safety archives, or check out these posts: