Have you ever thought about the journey that your food has gone through to end up on your plate? It’s pretty mind-boggling how many steps it can take just for food to get from a farm to a factory. However, between that factory and your plate, there’s often another step: food testing. Food testers have an important job–they screen food for quality, nutrition, potential allergens, and potential . We spent a lot of time investigating the world of food testing to bring you these 4 surprising facts.
1. Food Has DNA, Too
When you hear “DNA,” you probably think of crime investigation shows like CSI. DNA is found in all living things, plants and animals included. DNA analysis is actually a very common method to test food. Relatively new advances in molecular biology has allowed DNA testing to become a useful tool to identify potential food-borne illnesses and allergens, as well as “food authenticity.” (If you are about to eat, you might want to skip down to the next fact!) DNA food testing in Europe recently identified hamburgers that contained small amounts of horse meat in them. While horse is regularly eaten in many countries in the EU, we think we’ll pass on those burgers for now.
2. Food Testers are Fighting the Onslaught of Drug-Resistant Bacteria
You’re probably aware of the growing concern about the presents of antibiotics in meat and dairy. You have food testers to thank for that information. Perhaps you’ve wondered why antibiotics in food is a problem.
Here’s the deal: livestock who are given antibiotics put entire communities at risk, because bacteria that thrive in feedlots and farms can develop resistance to these antibiotics. While this might sound more like the plot of an apocalyptic sci-fi movie, scientists and food testers worry that it could become a reality without some radical changes. This CNN article showcases a food testing laboratory’s “report card” regarding antibiotic content in several chain restaurants. This report has encouraged many restaurants and corporations to change suppliers or demand antibiotic-free meat.
3. The FDA Doesn’t Automatically Test Genetically-Modified Foods
GMO’s are a hot-button issue in the food world these days. With all of the press that these foods and Monsanto (the world’s largest provider of modified food) have received, you’d think they’d be at the top of the FDA’s list of foods to test. However, according to this article from CBS News, that’s not the case. According to an advocate from the Consumer Union, the FDA places the responsibility for safety testing on the companies who develop the food.
4. Americans Experience 48 Million Cases of Food-Borne Illness Each Year
Food testers have more than a full-time job on their hands. Despite having one of the safest food supplies in the world, Americans experience around 48 million reported cases of food-borne illness every year, according to AGQ Labs & Technological Services. To put that in less abstract terms, that means nearly 1 in 6 people in the country will get sick from food they eat. Currently, the most common viruses and bacteria are:
- Novovirus (also known as Norwalk Virus)
- Clostridium perfringens
While food testers do their best to ensure that these bacteria aren’t present at your grocery store, they still recommend proper food handling and thoroughly cooking all meat and eggs. It’s also of paramount importance to keep foods out of the “danger zone” (between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperatures at which bacteria multiply.
Hopefully these facts have given you some interesting information to chew on (pun intended). Thanks for checking out this list, we hope we didn’t spoil your supper. A heartening thing to take away from these facts is that each year brings new advances in food testing technology and safety precautions. So, remember–wash your fruits and veggies, and fully cook all of your meat. Bon appetit!