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Why. Buyer beware. The past and present by word of the bewildered consumer shoppers in the modern marketplace look for the Best Buy the safest product and
find a perplexing jumble of goods that consumers choice is the story behind this program series buyer beware. However. The staff of life food is the most popular product on the market. The choices are staggering. The average supermarket may stock Fountain's of items. How do you select the most food for the least amount of money. How do you know that the products you take home are safe to eat and nutritious. Let's follow a housewife down the aisles of her local food store. Now that shopping let's see first of all I need some butter or or should I get margarine. It's cheaper but those cookies do taste better made with butter and I need some milk now to proceed to suppose I should get that or you know I should treat the kids and it would be I think a marker now that I can finally Textron the
chocolate milk. I wonder if George would like and so she goes assured that these products are wholesome and accurately labeled. Who makes this possible. The answer on the federal level on an interstate basis comes in three parts the United States Department of Agriculture the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. The animal products on the food market are judged by the United States Department of Agriculture. Inspectors investigate the quality of cattle pigs poultry and lambs raised on the farms of America. They look at the practices of the large and small farmers. The incidence of disease and the use of drugs at slaughterhouses. They check for dangerous contamination and unhealthy animals. Those that pass inspection are stamped with the federal purple label and may be shipped interstate. Dr. Victor Berry chief of the planning branch of the slaughter inspection at the USDA
describes crucial conditions for meat and poultry products. Certainly the fresh meats have to be handle both by the processor. And by the consumer in as fresh meats in other words. From the time the M-O slaughtered they are subject to deterioration so adequate refrigeration. Sanitary Handley are the prime factors and handling these products. In the ready to eat products or convenience items. Here we get into again the temperature. And time. As far as handling these because with. Without the proper handling they present the opportunity for buy to regrowth. Of course these things are sometimes very difficult or cannot be seen by the consumer for toxins and what have you. Without the proper. Cemetery handling and refrigeration Dr. Berry defends the
practice of continuous federal inspection of every meat and poultry carcass that is sold interstate. Our inspection is a continuous inspection. Yes we encounter violations and. The public Spike to continue income but that is why we're there we feel that with a continuous inspection that. We prevent this. Before it gets to the consumer. And this is sort of as opposed to an in point inspection in which you try to find the violation at the end point in processing meat. There are things that can happen to the meat that are not readily apparent to the consumer. That would not be readily apparent to an inspector. But by inspecting during the processing or within the processing. Our. Push is to prevent the violation of the effects of the violations
from reaching consumers. The problem of bad meat is more serious than consumers realize. No longer can an inspector simply check the smell and appearance of a carcass with modern chemicals. It is possible to deceive even a qualified inspector. And these chemicals not only hide the facts but may introduce hazards to human consumption. Hamburger has been involved with sulfite a federally banned additive that gives old meat a deceptively bright pink color. One New York state survey found sulfite in 26 out of 30 hamburger samples a study by the National Institutes of Health found that in 1967 out of over 2000 poultry samples 11 percent contained salmonella organisms. Some authorities have estimated that 50 percent of food sold in the United States may contain salmonella. Federal reports may include surprising statements.
The fish were hung on wooden sticks for the processing operation. The sticks and nails were encrusted with rotten fish scales and particles from previous batches. Debris from previous batches of fish was trapped in the next tabletop. Since no attempt was made to clean and sanitize the table between operations these residues served to contaminate all batches of fish that passed over the table. No attempt was made to clean the rusty wire dip nets that were used to remove the fish from the thawing and brining casks the Nets had built up bits of rotten fish flesh and trails. Our Rusty perforated metal scope was generally used to mix the brine solutions. After smoking the fish were allowed to stand at room temperature for approximately four and a half hours before they were placed in a refrigerator. Discoveries such as the made by federal inspectors do keep much unsafe food off the market. But Ralph Nader is still very critical of this system. He explains why a problem persists with this gross inadequacy
of inspection personnel and personnel there to use laboratory facilities to test the quality of food products that are right in the centers that are sent in by the field inspectors. We need far more meat inspectors and Perkins focused better trained and better paid because for several reasons the system now doesn't work. One overtime payments are paid by the plant. It works if the inspector does his work for the government not by the government. This is an inherently corrupting situation whereby the federal specter can be compromised by the lure of events over time. Painted things like a company. Second quite as important is that the speed of processing techniques in these plants are such as to make it almost impossible for a specter to do is drop a perjury Specter has about ten point five
five seconds per chicken to discern whether any of 17 criteria have been violated in need. It is nerves. It's not enough to know criticism of inspection is also present on the state level. Previously up to one quarter of the meat sold was not federally inspected such in trust state meat products did become subject to federal checks. In 1967 Dr Victor Berry of the USDA outlines this new law and its effects. I suppose one of the the major changes in the act was the. Provision for cooperation with states. The words we could or the federal government could pay up to 50 percent of the cost of bringing a state. Meat Inspection to be equal to the federal system. And I should say that the Act does require.
That. While in the fake. Meat and Poultry slaughtering and processing would come under inspection either federal inspection or a state inspection that is equal to federal inspection. This is one of the. Major affects of the of the legislation. But some are dubious about progress made in this direction. Many states are not setting up adequate investigation. Ralph Nader echoes their doubts. I don't think that there was any anticipation of any need beyond 1972 November 1970 to shape up the state inspection process of these main placer the federal government would take over the inspection duties. And it seems quite clear from the reports I'm getting around the country that most state Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health are not moving in order to meet the requirements of the law.
In addition to inspection and assurance of wholesome meat and poultry products consumers are given additional help and their choice of purchases on a voluntary basis. Packers may have meat graded by a branch of the USDA. For example beef may be graded from Prime to commercial. These ranks reflect the amount of fat the age of the animal the firmness color and muscle content of the carcass. A consumer searching for the finest beef steak available will want Prime but she'll pay more. On the other hand. A homemaker on a limited budget making soup may prefer to use commercial grade beef several produce items may also be graded or assigned a federal grading status. Not all food will be given a grading Mark. But when it is available it may help the shopper to choose more wisely. George Grange of the grading service at the USDA describes the basic system of grading and its implementation.
We have meat graders. We have potato graders. We have turkey graders a graders. We cry shoot allies to use our term as many people as possible in order to have as effective and efficient service as we can. But of course much of this is highly specialized. You really have to know what you're doing in order to examine a side of beef lets say and be able to tell whether it qualifies for USDA choice or whether it should fall into the next lower grade as USDA good. And of course this means a lot to the consumer and purchasing USDA Choice or good. And it means a lot to the man who owns the beef and is selling it because he is going to get considerably more for the higher grade. So there is a great deal of training a great deal of experience that's necessary in order to do a competent
job. As you mentioned earlier this is voluntary not only is it voluntary but the person getting the service pay is for it to cover our costs. So if we aren't doing a competent job they can dispense with our services very quickly. Another federal agency handles a large part of the food output of the United States and judges it's safe to eat. The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health Education and Welfare inspects and approves food products other than meat and poultry items. This arduous process is outlined by Margaret Robinson consumer specialist in the Chicago district of the FDA. The United States Department of Agriculture works together with the Food and Drug Administration to make sure that the plants are not sprayed by harmful chemical. Now all of this work is done of course before the plants are even planted.
And then the government protects the consumer from harmful pesticides too. With the cooperation of both of these organizations working together in order to have convenience foods we use food additives or chemicals. Before an additive can be used in foods an additive must be subjected to toxicity studies just as a pesticides are by the manufacturer and the FDA evaluates the studies. And of course pesticides in are regulated by FDA. The manufacturer must establish the safety and usefulness of a chemical used in food as a food additive. Then the FDA inspectors make regular factory inspections and bring back samples of foods for testing by
analysts. And these foods are carefully analyzed to be sure of their safety. Our scientists examined for bacterial contamination for excess pesticide residues for unsafe use of additives for sale for any kind of contamination or if a standard is set. Then they said to be sure that that standard is followed and the foods are checked to see that there is nothing in there that will harm the consumer or of the consumer. Aesthetically one of the most crucial tests is for pesticide levels. This work is done that many stages according to Mr. Robinson. The USDA must first determine that a pesticide is useful in growing a food crop. There's no need in using a pesticide unless it's useful and then it decides on the necessary label information for safe use of the pesticide and this is important that the
label information be the kind of material that will help the user to use the pesticide safely. The manufacturer by law must subject the pesticide to toxicity studies to determine if the pesticide is safe. And then these studies have to determine the largest amount of the chemical that will cause no injury to test animals under experiment. And then this of course has to be run so that there will be no injury for a lifetime. If this pesticide is consumed now the FDA evaluates and manufactures research to make sure the studies are properly conducted and that it will not harm the pesticide I'm referring to it will not be harmful to consumers. Then tolerances for the amount of chemical which may
remain on the food crop are set at the last level that will achieve the intended purpose. They make sure that enough margin of safety exists between that largest amount of residue that produces no effect on test animals and the amount that will remain on the food crop. Some people believe that it is impossible to investigate all food on a continuous basis. Statistical sampling may be the only possible course for such a vast industry. And even with inspection some products may have minute contamination undetected at the manufacturing level. Miss Robinson suggests a role for the consumer in assuring safe food to eat. Well we do have problems with certain types of food and there are certain things a consumer should help protect himself with. I always say the Food and Drug Administration can't
babysit with consumers. We find in our work with food that the most common violations are those that have to do with insect and rodent contamination. In other words it's just plain poor housekeeping poor sanitation. Our inspectors and laboratory scientists of course are well qualified to detect any kind of violation of this kind by finding insects rodents and food and insect fragments rodent pellets and hairs rodent urine. Bacterial contamination originating from insects and rodents. If the contaminated food is properly heated it doesn't harm the consumer but say release the insect and rodent contamination is aesthetically undesirable and FDA does all it can to prevent prevent these violations. We always say that the consumer is responsible for helping to protect himself in many ways them. In the case of
packaged foods the consumer who goes into the store should examine the cans before buying. Look at the cans for bulging eyes and of course as you might know this indicates spoilage and buy gas forming bacteria and look for dance and look for rust and of course glass containers should be inspected for cracks and should be inspected to see if the lids are secure and then any kind of package should be inspected for damage before purchasing and then frozen food packages should be solidly frozen not discolored. And after opening any food container of food that doesn't look or smell right should be discarded and nobody should ever taste food that doesn't look or smell right. And then the consumer is responsible for keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot in proper storage in the home. Proper
care. Actually the final responsibility for safe food rests with you and with the grocery stores. You must both maintain proper standards of sanitation and handling. State laws make requirements about storage of food items and provide for inspection of facilities on a regular basis. For example the Department of Public Health in Illinois enforces such regulations as the use of all foods while being stored prepared displayed. Served or sold or transported shall be protected against contamination from dust flies rodents or other vermin unclean utensils and work surfaces on necessary handling coughs and sneezes. Flooding drainage and overhead leakage and other sources. All potentially hazardous food shall be accept when being prepared. Forty five degrees Fahrenheit below before being placed in refrigerated display cases or preheated to 140 degrees
Fahrenheit or above before being placed in heated display cases and kept at safe temperatures there after but periodic inspection cannot replace the regular visits which you make to a store. If you see contaminated food cans with bulging NS foods marked with an expiration date that has passed or if you find that floors and shelves are dirty buyer beware. All of these practices indicate shoddy housekeeping and increase the chance of insect and rodent contamination. Look for common practices be on the letter of the law and then follow these same practices at home as you handle and store food. Would you feel free to do this really. Hey that's interesting when you live around here I get the first one they show obvious. Anderson as a matter of fact now another federal agency steps into the picture.
The Federal Trade Commission advertisement of food products is surveyed by the FTC to ensure its accuracy. If extravagant claims are made the FTC can check these statements and prosecute offenders. Joseph do Frayne of the Bureau of deceptive practices at the FTC answers a question about an ad for soup and the subsequent decision. Since we're talking about soup let's say the mother of the household saw an advertisement on television for some very attractive sober vegetable type and she batted. And when she opened the can she found that it just doesn't look at all like what she had seen on television. She knows the brand so she would make a note of that. She would Rick member of the television advertisement hopefully and she would make a note of that. She would know that there was a very wide disparity between the representation of
the medium and what she was provided when she paid her money for the canned soup. Those are the best. That really is about it as far as the basic information is concerned that you communicate that to someone. Do something about it. We can do something about television advertising and we in that case it's an active case in addition to claims made in advertising statements made on labels of products are under scrutiny. The labels of food products are surveyed by the FDA and contents are checked. If I can depicts three round tomatoes the FDA expects to find such contents if a can states that the contents is 16 ounces it must be sold by calibrated official weight measurement. Margaret Robinson explains it this way. I always say that the label is the window through which we look to what's inside of the package.
The inclusion of ingredients in food items may prove especially helpful to the homemaker. We asked Margaret Robinson of the FDA about the contents of a can of beef noodle soup. Well with the exception of foods for which standards are set and I mentioned standards before and maybe I should just explain that a standard is a formula set by the government with the help of industry and consumers and the manufacturer then has to adhere to this standard. With the exception of foods for which standards are are set. All foods have to have a listing of ingredients and these ingredients of course have to be in order a predominance in the food. For example did you say beef noodle soup I think is what you mentioned before. We could take that as just typical of what would be on the label if the label ingredients started out noodles
be water and so on down the line you would expect more noodles to be in that soup than beef. But if the reverse were true and the first ingredient on the label were beef then noodles then you would know that there would be more beef in the soup the noodles. Now this listing of ingredients helps a const simmer to select a product that meets her needs in other words if she wants a soup with considerable beef in there a large amount of beef she would select one that says be first. If she wants one with more noodles if this is more important to her then she would select the other one. It helps her to make value comparisons from one brand to another. The consumer may use this information to become a wise shopper. She may look for frankfurters with a label all beef. If she does not want those containing other kinds of meat. But she may prefer those labeled all meat if she is simply
avoiding certain extend hers such as cereal. A consumer cannot expect a hot dog to be all beef if no such claim is made. She must presume that chicken and cereal may well be the major ingredients. I can mark chili con carne e must contain 40 percent meat but chili con carne with beans must only have 25 percent meat. All of these labels meet the standards of the FDA and the USDA they allow the consumer to consider the ingredients of a product to judge the price per unit of measurement and to get the most safe food for her money. An additional factor does determine the cost of products in the grocery store advertising such promotional techniques may add greatly to the price of an item. So some authorities suggest buying little advertised brands. David Sanford editor of hot war on the consumer comments on private labels for large manufacturers the heavily advertised familiar brand name products.
Often sell the same product to the grocery chains for instance and they in turn sell it under their own private label for much less money that's available to them. At a profit to the manufacturer but they sell it they can sell it much more cheaply because they don't ever toss advertising is expensive. Still many do pay more and some are even victims of impure food. With the surveillance of the USDA the FDA and the FTC as well as allied state agencies however wholesome food products are the rule. However the consumer must still allot limited income for food and must decide among the thousands of alternatives open to her in her local food store.
Buyer beware
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The Staff of Life
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Identifier: 71-8-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “Buyer beware; 2; The Staff of Life,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021,
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APA: Buyer beware; 2; The Staff of Life. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from