On Wednesday, The New York Times reported on some shady meat traders in China who had been “peddling tons of beef, pork, and chicken wings that in some cases had been frozen for 40 years.” It’s like a twisted version of a viral article: “Want to Feel Old? Eat This Meat!” Wait, no, don’t. Definitely don’t.
Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer referenced the Times article on Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival’s Spotlight Health session, during a panel on food safety. In the United States, we may think ancient chicken wings are just a curiosity, but in fact, modern food supply chains are more global than ever. According to the Food and Drug Administration, in the U.S., 20 percent of the fresh vegetables people eat are imported, along with 50 percent of fresh fruits, and a whopping 80 percent of seafood. It’s not unthinkable that an outbreak of food poisoning in China could make its way around the world.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in six Americans get sick from foodborne illness each year, 128,000 go to the hospital because of it, and 3,000 die. There have been several highly publicized outbreaks in recent years, including an outbreak of Listeria in Bluebell ice cream, an outbreak of Salmonella in cantaloupe, and earlier this week, a recall of several brands of bottled water due to E. coli.