Just as I did last year at this time, I have been reflecting on the food stories that made the news headlines throughout 2011. Once again, they make me more committed than ever to supporting a safe and sustainable food system by supporting our small, local farmers and food producers.
Here’s a sampling of some of the top stories of this year:
Just as it was last year, food safety, more specifically, food recalls were some of the year’s top stories. According to the Associated Press, food safety is an even bigger concern to most Americans than food cost is. As was the case in 2010, there were several large food recalls, the largest being the Rocky Ford cantaloupe recall in September. The listeria outbreak from these Colorado melons resulted in 30 deaths and infected 146 people across 28 states. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), this was the second worst case of food-borne illness since it began keeping track of such illnesses in the 1970s.
Another large recall involved 36 million pounds of Cargill’s, multi-drug resistant salmonella ground turkey, making it the largest-ever Class I meat recall in the United States.
Something that might one day make these types of stories less common is a landmark food safety piece of legislation that also tops the list. It was also on the list last year because many consider it one of the biggest food stories in decades. This is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act that was officially signed into law by President on January 4, 2011. The Act finally gives the FDA the powers that everybody thought they already had; the authority to recall certain tainted foods, and requires the FDA to create new regulations for fruits and vegetables, and provides new regulations for food facilities, grocery stores and farms.
As predicted, the bill does create some issues for small farmers who are finding it hard to follow the new rules in the “Good Agricultural Practices” portion of the bill and who are seeking out answers and help in navigating through the legislation.
First Lady Michelle Obama is on the list again this year for her work alongside the USDA in introducing the USDA’s “My Plate” guide to healthy eating. It replaces the often-confusing food pyramid with its mandates to eat “5 a Day.” The basic guidelines under “My Plate” are to make half of each meal fruits and vegetables, and the other half lean proteins and grains. This is part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, designed to reduce childhood obesity.