Food Safety and the Trucking Industryby Press Release on 2012-05-30 02:16:47
Food recalls are frightening. It's disturbing enough when a product like a baby crib or an electronic device is recalled. But when there's something wrong with our food supply—something we cannot live without—it's a threat not only to our physical safety, but our sense of security.
Many food recalls come about because of unhealthy practices at food production plants. But more and more often, law enforcement officials are discovering that some trucking companies are falling short in their duties to safely transport food to grocery stores and restaurants.
From the time they leave the factories until they reach their destinations, certain foods must be kept at specific temperatures. This prevents spoilage, but more importantly, prevents the growth of harmful bacteria such as listeria and salmonella. For example, according to Oklahoma state code, perishable foods must be stored and transported at the "safe temperature" of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or below. Where this mandate becomes imperative is in the transport of meat.
In 2011, Indiana state police conducted an investigation of so-called "hot trucks," which refers to refrigeration trucks used to transport foods—like meat—in which the refrigeration units either don't work properly, or don't work at all. Law enforcement officials found several trucks carrying beef, chicken, and even tofu, where temperatures inside the cargo areas had reached more than 100 degrees. Upon opening the trucks for inspection, flies were observed, as well as a "rotting meat" smell. Those loads were deemed unfit for human consumption, and seized.
But how many of these malfunctioning trucks aren't pulled over and inspected? How much of this improperly stored and transported food makes it to the grocery store where you shop, or the restaurants where you take your family?
In the case of restaurants, all you can do is hope the chefs either don't accept poorly transported food, or that they at least cook the foods in a way that kills any illness-causing bacteria. Reputable restaurants and chefs are aware of food safety practices and regulations, and do their best to follow them. But not everyone is as conscientious. Many instances of undercooked food and subsequent illness are related to the fast food industry where younger and possibly poorly trained employees are entrusted with preparing food for the public. Fears of illness may bring into question whether it's even worth going out to eat.
At home, though, you have much more control. You may not know whether the meat you buy wasn't refrigerated properly on its way to the grocery store, but you can ensure you cook it properly to keep your family and yourself from becoming ill.
That covers your own safety, but doesn't address the bigger issue. Trucking is the method by which most food is transported in the United States. The trucking industry does have regulations and standards in place to maintain food safety, including minimum temperatures for refrigerated trucks, and cleanliness guidelines. Adhering to those standards is essential to maintaining the health of the millions of consumers who buy their food as opposed to growing or raising it themselves. But as is the case in many industries, not everyone follows the rules.
As law enforcement continues to crack down, your best defense against food-borne illness due to improperly transported food is to follow food safety and minimum cooking temperature guidelines. Or, you can do what many Americans have begun doing to save money in a bumpy economy—grow your own food.
Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law, and is an experienced Oklahoma City truck accident attorney.