How's this for a tombstone? "Here lies a guy/ Killed by a pie."

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Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown
Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown

How’s this for a tombstone? “Here lies a guy/ Killed by a pie.”

More accurately, the killer is corporate globalization and greed. Food conglomerates scavenge the globe in a constant search for ever-cheaper ingredients from low-wage nations that have practically no food-safety protections – which could make that pot pie in your freezer a killer.

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Consider the case of ConAgra Foods, a massive conglomerate that sells more than 100 million pot pies a year under the Banquet label. Its pies contain 25 ingredients, though sometimes they contain an extra one not listed on the label: salmonella. Poisoning customers is bad for repeat business, so ConAgra does do spot checks for pathogens. However, it has been unable to pinpoint which ingredient is the culprit.

In fact, as the New York Times has reported, such food giants concede that their supply chain is so far-flung that they “do not even know who is supplying their ingredients, let alone if those suppliers are screening the items for microbes.” The problem is so widespread that makers of Banquet, Swanson, Nestlé, Hungry Man and other brand name foods admit they can no longer ensure the safety of their products.

So, you might assume they’d be changing their suppliers to get better ingredients. Ha! What a silly dreamer you are! That could squeeze their profits. Instead, they are simply shifting the responsibility for the safety of their products to you, the consumer. The Banquet pot pie package, for example, now instructs you to cook the pie to exactly 165-degrees “as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.”

Hello – this is supposed to be a convenience food, not a science experiment. Most families don’t even have a food thermometer. Instead of thrusting safety instructions at us, how about just putting safe ingredients in the pies?

“For Frozen Entrees, ‘Heat and Eat’ Isn’t Enough,” The New York Times, May 15, 2009.

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