Shoppers wonder about food safety amid recalls

- If you feel like you're suffering from a case of "recall fatigue," you're not alone. 

Americans shoppers, who are used to hearing about problems with meat, seafood, even salads, and fruit, are now being bombarded by voluntary recalls of snack foods, from Ritz crackers to Goldfish, to Swiss rolls, to even Kellogg's HoneySmacks cereal. But Dr. Henk Den Bakker, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia's Center Food Safety in Griffin, says don't panic.

"Your food is very safe," Den Bakker says.

Den Bakker says the number of recalls is up, but he feels it's because we're getting better at spotting potential contamination before large numbers of Americans start getting sick.

"You have to realize, you're always living with certain risks," Den Bakker says. "So, there is always a risk there will be a foodborne pathogen in your food. But, the risk is much lower because we're catching it much farther up the production chain."

But what about so many snack foods, which are a go-to for parents, being pulled off the shelves amid concerns they may be contaminated with Salmonella?

"I think it's pure coincidence that this season, what we're seeing now, multiple dry foods have clearly become contaminated with Salmonella," Den Bakker says.  "That's not something that you usually see."

He says the source of contamination with dry foods is often bacteria on food processing equipment.

"There is a story about how Salmonella, for some reason, got into the nooks and crannies of the wall of the factory," Den Bakker says.  "And, every time they did something with that wall, the strain would reappear.

So what is the best way to keep from getting sick?

Den Bakker says to cook your food thoroughly, especially meat.

"With those dry foods, on the other hand, I'm not microwaving my cereal," he says.  "So, there, you have to do stay on top of recalls that are on the news."

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 out of every 6 Americans gets sick with a foodborne illness. Symptoms include upset stomach, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The website foodsafety.gov lists recent food recalls and has information on foodborne pathogens

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