Out in Arizona, an old tombstone bears an epitaph for a young gunslinger: “I was expecting this/But not so soon.”
Gunslinging, of course, is a high-risk business. But today, some of us can expect to have the following marker on our graves: “Here lies a guy/Killed by a pot pie.”
America’s pot-pie threat lurks in an ingredient that today’s producers of frozen foods don’t list on their packages: salmonella. In just one salmonella outbreak in 2007, the Banquet brand of pies sickened an estimated 15,000 people in 41 states.
The true culprit in such poisonings, however, is not the little deadly bug, but the twin killers of corporate globalization and greed. Giant food corporations, scavenging the globe in a constant search for ever-cheaper ingredients to put in their processed edibles, are resorting to low-wage, high-pollution nations that have practically no food-safety laws, much less any safety enforcement.
Consider the case of ConAgra Foods, a massive conglomerate that sells 100 million pot pies a year under its Banquet label. Each pie contains 25 ingredients sourced from all over the world — often from subcontractors who don’t report their sources. Until the 2007 salmonella contamination of its pies, ConAgra did not even require suppliers to test for pathogens, nor did it do its own tests. Since poisoning one’s customers turned out to be a bad strategy for earning repeat business, the conglomerate now runs spot checks — but even when it detects contamination in a pie, it has not been able to determine which ingredient is the bad one.
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