FAQs on Food Safety

Is the Food Safety Modernization Act Making Our Food Supply Safer?

people eatingWith much jubilation, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed by President Obama on January 4, 2011.  It was the largest, most significant overhaul of the U.S. food safety system in more than 70 years.  Since FSMA became law, announcements of food recalls have continued via the news media, so you may be wondering if FSMA is actually helping to keep our food supply safer.  Perhaps you've been contacted (as I have) by an advocacy group begging recipients to call the President and urge him to take action to get rules related to the law out of committee and working for the public good. I researched the causes of the delay and asked the scientists on the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board to comment on it and the current impact of the Act. Here's what I've learned.

FAQs about Mushrooms: Are they Very Dirty or Very Clean?

MushroomQ. I’ve read and been told that mushrooms are grown in a sterile environment. I’ve also read that they’re grown with manure. Considering the manure, how carefully must they be washed?  Are they quite clean or very dirty and full of pathogens? 


 Q. One box that I bought recommended transferring them to a paper bag before refrigerating. Is a paper bag better than the packaging they come in?  Why don’t they sell them in a paper bag if that’s a better container for them?


A.  Food scientist Dr. Luke LaBorde answers both questions as he describes how mushrooms are commercially grown and how best to care for them.

Would You—Should You—Do You--Eat Irradiated Food?

Radura A cheerful, optimistic scientist took me on a tour of his research lab, where he housed many lively chickens, all of whom seemed to be thriving on a diet of irradiated food.  They’d been eating it for about 2 years and were in good health and producing normal offspring.  I left the lab thinking that irradiated food—with almost no pathogens and a longer shelf life than untreated food—would be the wave of the future.  At that time, I was a student journalist at the University of Michigan (in Ann Arbor). The year was 1954.  Now, more than 50 years later, less than 1% of the food Americans eat is irradiated. Would we be better off if that percentage were higher?  If so, why are we shying away from this technology?  I asked our site’s Advisory Board scientists, as well as my computer, the answers to these and related questions. Their responses follow.

How Long Should Cheese Be Aged? Will the Rules Be Changed?

Cheese Both cheesemakers and foodies are wondering and worrying about what the FDA will do next. 

Since 2009, the agency has been studying the question of whether 60 days of aging is sufficient to make cheeses produced with unpasteurized (raw) milk safe.  The fear is that the government might

a) lengthen the aging time period

b) forbid the use of raw milk in certain types of cheeses or even

c) ban the use of raw milk in cheeses altogether.


Why would any of these actions be taken, and what would be lost as a result?

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