Top 5 Records presents Top 5 Food Safety Myths by Bee Wilson, the author of "Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud.”
• The American food supply has never been so dangerous.
Wrong. If you find it terrifying feeding your family now, try imagining yourself in Washington or New York from the 1850s to the 1900s. You try to buy vinegar; you are sold sulfuric acid. Your peas come greened with copper, giving you a dose of heavy metal poisoning with every bite. Spices are bulked with breadcrumbs or sawdust. Children’s candies are colored with poisonous lead. Canned goods are laced with copper, tin and toxic preservatives.
• Packaged food is safer.
Packaged food is potentially less safe than unpackaged food. It passes through many hands before it reaches the consumer, increasing the odds that it has been tampered with at some point along the way. Plenty of packaged food is mislabeled — as is the case with the formula scandal in China, which has affected well-known brands.
• People who buy organic food don’t have to worry.
As with any other culinary fetish, "organic" is a target for swindlers. There have been numerous cases of organic food fraud in recent years — mass-produced eggs passed off as "organic free-range," for example.
• Science makes our food less healthy.
We owe a huge amount to the quiet behind-the-scenes work of scientists — the food detectives who do their bit to uncover food fraud.
• Eating safely comes down to individual behavior.
If we all take personal responsibility for washing fruits and vegetables and cooking poultry until it’s piping hot, surely we’ll be safe? Not so. Food safety is largely a question of politics. The Chinese dairy scandal demonstrated what happens when a government fails catastrophically at regulating its food supply.