What is safe food?

I struggle with that question. Food safety or, safe food, are terms that are bandied about but, like talking with a spouse, maybe we’re talking about different things.

If I’m in front of a group, I usually ask, what does safe food mean to you? The answers run the range of possibilities – nutritious, sustainable, low in fat, welfare-friendly, local and any other slogan that has been popularized and rendered meaningless by fashionable foodies.

The people that publish Consumer Reports came out with some “new national food safety and labeling poll" that even went by the bullshit name, GreenerChoices, yesterday which seemed to cover everything – genetic engineering, labeling, inspections – except the things that make people barf.

I find it all confusing. And, as Less Nessman said on WKRP in Cincinnati, “when I get confused, I watch television. Somehow, television makes things simple.”

But that was 30 years ago. So I checked Wikipedia.

“Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness.”

That’s too simple. Way too simple.

Rhode Island Food Safety Education
has a thorough but long-winded definition:

“Protecting the food supply from microbial, chemical (i.e. rancidity, browning) and physical (i.e. drying out, infestation) hazards or contamination that may occur during all stages of food production and handling-growing, harvesting, processing, transporting, preparing, distributing and storing. The goal of food safety monitoring is to keep food wholesome.”

That may be difficult to fit on a T-shirt.

What’s your definition of safe food?