Food processing involves taking raw food materials such as grains or meats and forming them into new, more convenient and marketable food products. But processing presents many opportunities for food safety problems. Over the years, GAP has represented numerous whistleblowers, both corporate and government, who have made startling disclosures about the dangers associated with the processing of food. FIC is committed to enabling whistleblowers to tell the truth about food processing hazards.
When most people think of processed food, sugar laden, high fat snack foods come to mind. In reality, processing is applied to most foods available at the supermarket, including cereal, bread, peanut butter, frozen peas, and bacon. Not all processing may be dangerous to consumers – but it does increase exposure to harmful contaminants and additives, or involve chemical changes that may have health implications.
GAP has a long history of working with whistleblowers who have exposed dangerous problems inherent in processing. Early whistleblower pioneer John Coplin exposed the widespread and routine practice of quality-grading bribery (falsely grading cattle too highly), and regular trading of dead, diseased or dying cows (otherwise known as “3D Cows”). Veterinarian Carl Telleen exposed how “washing” poultry actually means soaking it in “fecal soup” to increase water weight, causing a 33 percent salmonella contamination rate. Southern California USDA inspectors exposed regular commerce in beef contaminated with feces and other filth. GAP stood with these whistleblowers and countless others who have come forward to expose potentially lethal food safety practices.
Contamination is often the result of foodborne pathogens or chemical reactions between the product and the processing (fermentation, grilling, etc.).
Deadly pathogens like E. coli, botulinum toxin, and salmonella can increase and spread as a result of improper food handling and hygiene. Consider that just one contaminated cow can lead to a massive outbreak of sickness and death – and you see how lethal contamination can be.
Processing frequently involves the use of additives. But the food industry is careful to make sure that not all things “added” to food are listed on the label of the product. Some additives are actually part of the packaging itself. Furthermore, companies often find a loophole to having their products undergo much-needed and extensive FDA review before they end up on your dinner table.
Many processing problems are the result of insufficient government authority to regulate the food industry. Government inspectors are central to protecting food integrity – but the current system of oversight is unreasonably compartmentalized, inefficient, and too cozy with the industries it regulates.