The increase in the number of fast-food restaurants, supermarkets, and restaurants in developing countries, and the rising trend of eating meals away from home, present a global challenge to ensure that food is appealing and safe. Many countries have agencies that set and regulate standards for food safety. In the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the task of regulating and inspecting meats and poultry during slaughter and processing, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for conducting tests, setting standards, and enforcing laws regulating food quality and processing. FDA inspectors check restaurants to make sure that they practice food safety regulations. FDA officials also review the safety of chemicals that manufacturers use as food additives. Importing foods from countries where food safety is not strictly monitored presents a global health threat.
The biggest problem with food safety is food poisoning. Some bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning are: Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, Shigella, Campylobacter, and yersinia. Bacteria, viruses, toxins, parasites, and chemical contaminants can all cause food-borne illnesses, and it takes only a small amount of contaminated food to cause severe food illnesses.
Abaya-wearing women in Saudi Arabia wait in the ladies-only line to order a quick meal. In developing nations, the popularity of fast-food alternatives to traditional cuisines has prompted debate over the nutritional and cultural impacts of Westernization. [Photograph by Saleh Rifai. AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]
Signs and symptoms of food-borne illness may present within thirty minutes of eating contaminated food, or they may not show up for up to three weeks. While some food-borne illnesses may last for a couple of days, some may last for weeks. Severe cases can be life threatening. see also Convenience Foods; Fast Foods; Obesity.
Kweethai C. Neill
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1997). "Update: Prevalence of Overweight Among Children, Adolescents, and Adults—United States, 1988-1994." Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report 46:199-202.
Lin, B. H., and Frazao, E. (1977). "The Nutritional Quality of Foods at and Away from Home." Food Review 20:33-40.
International Obesity Task Force. "The Global Epidemic of Obesity." Available from <http://www.iotf.org/publications/Newsletter/spring97.htm>
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