On Food Safety, We Need That Old 'Poison Squad' Spirit

Crusaders of old were willing to risk their lives
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2011 1:10 PM CST
Harvey Washington Wiley, a food-safety crusader, at left.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – Ho-hum: Alfalfa sprouts sickened nearly 150 people earlier this month. Sadly, we've come to expect these kinds of outbreaks, writes Deborah Blum in Slate. What we need is a modern-day Harvey Washington Wiley, she suggests. He's the USDA scientist who created high-profile "poison squads" in the early 1900s, in which young volunteers taste-tested suspect food additives.

We've come a long away since then, and we don't need poison squads anymore, but we do need that same "crusading spirit," writes Blum. We have to better understand the bacteria infecting our food and insist on safer farming and production methods. "Those early 20th-century scientists, advocates, and citizens would not be resigned to this epidemic of food poisoning. A hundred years later we should not be, either." Click for the full column, which has more background on those poison squads.

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