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Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism

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Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism
By Marion Nestle. (Berkeley, University of California Press: 2003. Pg. xvi, 350.) ISBN: 0-520-23292-5.

Reviewed by Leo Johnston - August 28, 2003

Is the food that you eat safe? If your answer is yes, how can you be sure? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC), there are more than 250 foodborne diseases and they are "Estimated to cause 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,200 deaths in the United States each year."

In the groundbreaking book, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Marion Nestle investigated the role that politics plays in food safety, and how public safety often takes a backseat to economic and industrial concerns. Nestle is the Chairperson of the Nutrition and Food Studies department at New York University. She has studied, and written, extensively on the subject of food safety and nutrition. In her new book, Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism, Nestle, continues the discourse that she began in Food Politics, by exploring the various changes that have occurred in how foods are produced, packaged, and eaten, and how these new modifications have out paced existing legislation designed to protect the food supply. She also takes a look at various emerging threats to the food supply, ranging from the threat posed by bioterrorist to genetically modified 'Frankenfoods'.

Safe Food is an eye opening book. Nestle's overview of the subject of food safety is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Her writing style is fluid and concise, and extremely readable. This book not only evaluates the risks posed by improperly prepared or contaminated foods, but it also explains the organization of food oversight departments in the United States, and the political machinations that influence their decisions. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the production and sale of corn dogs, yet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bagel dogs. Nestle explains why similar products are regulated by different agencies and how this division of oversight duties influences overall food safety.

Food safety should concern everyone of this planet. Nestle's book helps to explain just how hazardous eating can be - and the steps that can be taken to help ensure that the food we eat is safe to eat - both on the consumer and the governmental levels. Safe Food is a definite must read for anyone concerned about the safety of the food that they eat and the ongoing changes in the field of food biotechnology.

Related Reviews:

How the Cows Turned Mad, by Maxime Schwartz.
An intriguing history of the medical detective work that has gone into identifying and studying spongiform encephalopathies, including Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, otherwise known as Mad Cow disease.

Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War, By Judith Miller, Stephen Engelberg, and William Broad.
An in-depth look at America's secret biological warfare research and the current efforts underway to thwart a biological attack, and the threat posed by biological weapons, and bioterroism.

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