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Questions about food safety?

Questions about food safety? The early summer tragedy involving Mexican-style cheese, along with other recent outbreaks of food poisoning, has raised concerns about food safety.

Because many Mexican-style cheeses are perishable like cottage cheese, Sunset's June article (which was off press about a month before investigation linked cheese to the illness; gave the advice on obvious signs of spoilage to watch for. But in this case the cheese contamination was detectable only through laboratory analysis.

Even with today's normally high standards of hygiene and inspections, it pays to be cautious. If you have questions about the safety of cheese or any other foods, where can you turn for help? And what should be cause for concern?

What to watch for

These are obvious signs: any abnormal color or odor when you open a package or tin; any evidence of contamination in manufacturing, such as a foreign object in a loaf of bread; bulging cans; infestations of weevils in flour, maggots in raisins; signs that frozen food has thawed, even if it's refrozen; lack of refrigeration for items like canned hams that are supposed to be refrigerated. If you notice any of these signs, return the spoiled product to the market.

Less obvious but more important: if you become ill for no apparent reason--and especially if others become ill, too--suspect that the cause could be a particular food you ate. Also, any time there's a product recall, check to see if you have that item on your shelve.

Who will answer questions?

Agencies at many government levels can help. But finding the qualified authority varies from community to community.

Start with your local health department, if there is one; if no one there can answer your questions, the office can refer you to another agency. County and

state health listings may have numerous departments; look for a public or environmental health department, or one to do with food. If you don't find any of these, check the state department of agriculture or (in large cities) the federal Food and Drug Administration. Listings for city, county, state, and federal governments are found at the front of your telephone book.

It's important both to recognize food hazards and to report them. The detective work required to isolate the cause of the cheese spoilage depended on collecting reports from many sources. What you say may provide vital clues.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Aug 1, 1985
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