Systems in Place to Keep Food Safe Despite Numerous Scares Across the Country

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  First it was chicken salad sold at Fareway stores. Now, more than 200 million eggs are being recalled over salmonella fears. On top of that, nearly 9,000 pounds of prepackaged salad mixes have been pulled from the shelves over E. coli concerns.

"I think you need to know your food," said Ellen Burnquist, a local shopper. "I think you need to understand if it smells funny, I think you need to make sure it's washed. I think you need to know, you know, that it's coming from a clean processing factory if it's cheese or meat or whatever. I think you need to be cautious about anything you put in your mouth."

Pat Deluhery, a former longtime state senator from Davenport who now lives in Des Moines, says he and his wife are very cautious about the food they consume.

"We do not have food issues at our house because we're very careful year round about what we buy at the grocery store, what we prepare and then eat," he said.

But no matter how cautious consumers are, some things are simply out of their control.

"The problem is that things can still go wrong," said State Public Health Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk with the Iowa Department of Public Health. "That's why we still need to make sure that we're doing everything that we can to make sure that in the field, for example, lettuce is not sprayed with manure in the field. No, that would be a bad idea because then you've got, you know, feces all over your lettuce."

There's a lot of trust that goes on along the path of the food production line from the producer to the consumer.

"At a certain level, there's not a whole lot you can do," said Quinlisk. "And that's why it's so important. also, for the various governmental agencies to work with the people who are producing that to make sure that it's not contaminated at that point, either."

That's where the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals comes into play.

"There are approximately 24,000 food establishments operating in the state of Iowa," said Public Information Officer David Werning "They're all inspected on a basis of risk factor. The high-risk establishments are inspected twice a year, so those restaurants that produce a lot of food in-house from scratch, we go in there on a regular basis."

The public has access to those inspection reports, which are searchable in an online database at food.iowa.gov. If you're feeling queasy, you are asked to call 844-IowaSic (844-469-2742) or your local health department to report food poisoning.