Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Food" Environmental Science

Jean Fedna

Imagine going into a supermarket and you are shopping for food. You go into the aisle and everything is labeled: chips, milk, orange juice, meat, soda, spaghetti. All of these items just have their objective names as their labels, but nothing is specified. Can you imagine meat being sold with no specification? Or milk? It is true that people can tell by the thickness of milk what percent they are drinking, but from what farm is this milk coming from, being pasteurized, or is it pasteurized? We could ask the same amount of questions, if not more for the rest of the items listed. When it comes to food it is important to know the process by which your food is being prepared and handled. Most importantly is to understand production. There are plenty of issues that surround food when it comes to public health. Epidemics have broke out, where without the understanding the processes of food, would make the handling of these disease outbreaks impossible to control. When it comes to food our health is at serious risks. We have to consider structure, food’s contents; the environment food is handled or kept in, and unpreventable outside components that sometimes get caught in food.
“Concurrently, estimates are that the consumption of contaminated food in the United States leads to each year to the illness of about 76 million people, of whom more than 325,000 are hospitalized and about 5,000 die.(Moeller, 129) There are a multiple amount of health problems that can derive from contaminated food. Contaminated can mean many things, sometimes it can be bacteria in the food due to insanitary environment. Viruses can get into the food from other people who are sick, people can also contaminate food by letting bodily fluids and hair particles get into the food. Sometimes people will consume food that is old and they will eat it mold and all. Sometimes in the process of making sure that foods are safe for sale for consumers to eat, within that process chemicals will get into the food such as lead or mercury. And of course, people tend to say too much of anything is bad for you.
There have been some popular outbreaks in the past years that always seem to rare their ugly heads every once in a while. Food borne diseases such as mad cow disease, salmonella poisoning, and biotech foods are the most commonly known. “Salmonella infections occur in an estimated 1.4 million people in the United States each year.” (Moeller, 133) Incubation period for salmonella is about a week if not shorter. People who get infected with salmonella experience diarrhea, back pain, and usually get high fever. The tricky thing about salmonella’s properties is that it can exist for a period of long period of time in places that most organisms cannot. It is commonly found in the intestines of animals such as dogs and can be in rodents. Chicken at times is a common source as well. For example, eggs can even be infected with salmonella because the chicken is infected first from the ovaries. There are a number of infectious diseases that can come from food and all are caused and come from different things. It is common to here that people who ate at the same restaurant will be diagnosed with salmonella in the same week. At times it is not only food borne diseases that come from food but bacteria that get into the food because of improper handling. This being said, when a restaurant worker sneezing your meal it can cause an alarming amount of sickness in the population that are eating at that restaurant or food place.
With children viruses can be prominent because they spend time in camps and other concentrated area, because they are still learning cleanliness they spread germs to each other easily. Also because the immune system of a child is still developing they tend viruses in their case can be more fatal. If high concentration can cause a for a concentrated area to easily be infected with viruses from food contamination than the not only children are affected. A population of people in general can experience viral infection if they are in an exclusive situation. For example if there are passengers on a plan who’s food is contaminated, like a salad or meat entrĂ©e, everyone on that plane could possibly get infected thus creating a population of maybe adults and children alike who experience food poisoning. People even think that eating at a restaurant is safe because in order for that restaurant to still be in business it would have to be in proper standing with the laws put in place by the health department.
When it comes to chemical illness, it is no wonder there is an expiration date on containers of food. Sometimes the chemicals used to create these containers get into canned foods, such as lead. Still that is not the only way that people become ill from food. They also can get ill from chemical occurrences in the environment. The like how mercury is converted into a salt but one that is harmful to humans, this is important when we think of the food that we get from these waters.
The new trend is to eat healthy in order to have a long life, diabetes free. Well, not only are organic foods expensive but sometimes pose a risk to human health. There sometimes preservatives or salts added to these foods to keeps them fresh as they are natural. For some time it has been discussed and debated upon what would come out of this fact that animals are given too many hormones. We want to have a large chicken because the more meat packages we can make form that chicken, hence the more money. But in the long run we do not think of the side effects that we will have to face when we eat that chicken with all its hormones. There are a number of ways that humans alter the goodness of food making food our worst enemy. It can be from the way we cook our food too much too little, to what we use to cook our foods with. Either way, with every decision that we make, it is a risk we take when we do not handle or understand how to protect ourselves in how we eat.
In light of the fact that we humans are placed in quite a dilemma, we realize that we have to eat if with it comes disease we will handle it. Because there are so many factors that can result in food contamination and cause illness in an environment, there have to be agencies put in place to regulate. For this reason there are many agencies put in place to regulate such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and another common one National Institute of Health (NIH). All of these agencies are responsible for regulating a different aspect of the food industry. (Moeller) Regulation of foods and food industries people can take the risk of eating from restaurants and purchasing foods from the market, still the risks we take can be the same ones that take us to our graves. The scary part is you never know, it is when we are infected with food poisoning that the other public health subjects come into play whether it is toxicology or air in the home community. Food doesn’t only affect are health but our environment.
Moeller, Dade. "Food." Environmental Health . 1992. Reprint. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2005. 129-157. Print.


  1. In the battle against food-borne illnesses, it is essential for not only these agencies to regulate the production and handling of food, but also for people to be responsible about what they put into their bodies. I am not surprised that children are most often sick, especially with things that stem from eating something contaminated. Kids, especially very young ones, are always trying to put things into their mouths, whether it is food or not. I know when I was younger, I always ate the batter for cookies or cakes (and I still do) because it tasted good. It did not matter that I was told I could get sick, kids want what they want and will always try to get it. That is why it is so important to monitor not only what your children eat, but what you eat and how you prepare it.

  2. The above article was posted by Marlena Grasso

  3. The statistics in this article are shocking. Companies should be spending more time working on quality control. People purchasing the foods should also be more educated and pay more attention to what they are buying and eating. Like you said, organic doesn't always mean better and I'm sure many people assume that that is the case. Many of these food related illnesses can be avoided if people took more care with what they eat.

  4. I don't think there's anything to worry about. As science and technology has improved exponentially in the past century we've really grown to understand a lot more what is good for us, and what is bad. In the grand scheme of things (the entire history of food...) the FDA is very, very young, and I think they have done a good job so far. I have faith that this will continue at the same rate for at least past my lifetime. For the individual, the hard part is keeping abreast of the most current knowledge. Last semester in Endocrinology a guest lecturer spoke about how she believed Soy Protein Isolate was harmful, and now I always check ingredients lists for it. Now that was a personal choice that probably comes from me being kind of paranoid about that stuff, but I don't try to push that on anyone else because there isn't enough information available to be sure about it. Until the government steps in to regulate certain things, it's the individual's responsibility to know what they are eating (based on the best available information) and act accordingly.

    Posted by Derrick Xu

  5. There’s only so much that some government administrations such as the FDA can do to prevent food-born illnesses. They can inspect locations like restaurants and shut them down if there are any serious violations, but what if restaurants were required to have their health inspection scores posted at the front door or window? This is something that was suggested on an article on USA Today and in a sense “makes the public part of the inspection workforce”. This can cause violators to loose many of their customers but at the same time make them meet health inspection standards through some humiliation.

    Posted by Nelson MIlano

  6. Your right the statistics in this article are shocking. Companies should be spending more time working on quality control. but science and technology has improved in the past century. we have grown to understand a lot more what is good for us, and what is not.

    Posted By Jean Fedna