James N. Klapthor

IFT President-Elect Mark McLellan, Texas A&M University–College Station, addressed the issue of irradiated mail in the Nov. 6 issue of The Dallas Morning News in the article, “Mail Order Firms Hope for the Best.” Responding to apprehensions caused by the introduction of anthrax to the U.S. mail system, McLellan said food manufacturers and distributors are doing everything possible to protect parcels from cross-contamination. “Is it guaranteed? No,” he said, “It’s not guaranteed, but that is the nature of terrorism anyway. You try to counter each fear with best approaches and common sense.” McLellan concluded that consumers should inspect mail-order food packages, looking for indications they were opened or damaged. The Dallas Morning News is Texas’ second-most read daily newspaper, with a circulation of 490,000. The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee re-published this story Nov. 12 to its circulation of 300,000.

It should come as no surprise that the topic of irradiated mail made its way onto National Public Radio and its Science Friday program Nov. 2. Listeners heard commentary by Christine Bruhn, University of California–Davis, educating the audience on the irradiation process and its ability to eliminate the threat of anthrax spores arriving in mail. Bruhn also provided commentary on the subject published separately Nov. 6 in the San Francisco Chronicle article, “Plans to Mail Holiday Treats May Turn Sour,” and the Nov. 17 article, “Irradiation Reviews Glowing,” in the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald. The World-Herald circulates 220,000 papers daily, while the Chronicle has a circulation of 450,000. National Public Radio boasts more than 500 network affiliates nationwide.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called upon Michael Doyle, University of Georgia, to identify gaps within the U.S. food supply system where terrorism could gain a foothold. In the Nov. 4 article, “Safeguarding our food,” Doyle said one area of vulnerability is fresh fruits and vegetables. “We’re very vulnerable here because less than 1 percent of our imports are inspected.”The Sunday Journal-Constitution has a circulation of 679,000. Earlier in the week, Doyle’s comments on food’s safety from terrorism were published in the Nov. 1 article, “Food Industry Tightens Security,” published by the Los Angeles Times. Doyle claimed “great confidence” in major food processors, but noted that smaller companies may have vulnerabilities if they lack effective quality controls and emergency plans. The Times circulates more than 1 million papers.

• Doug Archer, University of Florida, countered the perspective that consumers are vulnerable to contamination in the Orlando Sentinel article, “Food supply relatively safe from terrorists,” published Nov. 15. “Viruses or bacteria that affect cattle, swine or plants are relatively easy to spread,” said Archer, but “those attacks are unlikely to seriously harm many humans.” “The potential damaging effects . . . on the food supply would mostly be financial and psychological.” Archer said fears about the threat to the food supply seem “way out of proportion” to the actual threat. The Orlando Sentinel distributes daily 250,000 copies.

The November issue of Prevention magazine utilized insight of four IFT members, including Bruhn and Doyle, in the article, “Food got you frightened?” On the topic of foodborne illness, Robert Gravani, Cornell University, commented, “Over the years, we’ve seen a rise in the incidence of foodborne illnesses, in part because some of the microorganisms that can make people sick seem to be adapting and getting stronger.” As protection against these pathogens, Bruhn advised readers to do as the experts do. “I follow the basic principles of food safety: Cool it, clean it, cook it,” she said. On this subject of cooking, Donald Schaffner, Rutgers University, said, “Studies show that color isn’t a reliable indicator” when cooking. He advised using a meat thermometer to determine when meat is sufficiently cooked. And to limit the risk of cross-contamination between kitchen surfaces, Doyle said, “Fifteen percent of sponges tested in kitchens contain Salmonella.” To kill pathogens, he said “microwave a moist sponge for 30 to 60 seconds on high. But in our house, we use paper towels.” Prevention distributes 3 million copies monthly.

Also reaching consumers with practical food information was Robert Anderson, West Virginia University, Barry Swanson, Washington State University, and Daniel Y.C. Fung, Kansas State University, who provided content to the Nov. 11 issue of Parade Magazine. In, “Get the Most from Fruits and Vegetables,” Anderson advised readers on the topic of fresh produce. “Pass over produce that’s bruised, cracked, punctured or soft,” he said. “Such blemishes harbor germs and (some) soft produce is overripe.” On the subject of storage, Swanson said, “Fruits and vegetables breathe, taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide . . . so don’t seal them in plastic bags.” And in “The Year’s Best Food News,” Fung’s research using prune juice to destroy E. coli in ground beef was highlighted. Parade is inserted into more than 300 Sunday newspapers, a circulation of 36 million.

Media Relations Manager