Spinach, alfalfa sprouts, peanut butter, beef…almost weekly, FDA and USDA alerts fill my inbox with notices about food recalls due to Salmonella or E. Coli. How does our food supply get contaminated? And what safeguards exist to ensure that the foods we eat are produced in safe and sanitary conditions? In response to concerns about the food supply, President Obama called for tougher food safety measures, and in May of this year launched a Food Safety Working Group to update the system of food safety in America.

picking romaine lettuce
Workers harvesting romaine hearts in a field at Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville, CA, in the Salinas Valley. Because of concerns over hygiene, workers now wear hair nets and plastics gloves. Photo by Sarah Varney

Tonight at 8pm on KQED Public Radio, Health Dialogues, takes an in-depth look at the safety of the food we eat. Host Scott Shafer begins by interviewing two voices familiar with food safety at the federal level: Michael Taylor, the newly appointed Senior Advisor to the Commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. David Acheson, who, until the end of July, worked as Associate Commissioner for Foods at the Food and Drug Administration. Later in the program, award-winning health care reporter Sarah Varney looks at how proposed food safety legislation in Washington could affect California’s food industry. We also pay a visit to the kitchen of UC Davis food safety expert Christine Bruhn, to hear about tips on consumer food safety in the home.

Research shows eating fish contaminated with mercury may cause brain damage or learning disabilities. The FDA regulates commercial fish, but what about sport fishing? Health Dialogues looks into the safety of fishing in the golden state.

Sport fishing may not always be safe, but growing your own food must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Gardeners, especially urban gardeners, should always test the soil for lead and other toxins before planting. You’ll hear a piece about a group that helps to plant gardens, and test the soil, in Alameda County.

Milk and Soy milk in store

Health Dialogues also visits two grocery stores in San Francisco’s Outer Mission with food inspector Sheldon Lew to see what the food inspection process looks like. Lew talks about what red flags he looks for during food inspections. Experience an audio slideshow of the food inspection tour.

Also, check out an audio slideshow of foods imported into the United States with FDA inspectors at the Los Angeles Port of San Pedro.

Listen to Making Fruits and Vegetables Safer on The California Report
When Congress returns to Washington after the August recess, the Senate will take up sweeping legislation to reform the nation’s food safety system. California’s produce industry could be affected.
Reporter: Sarah Varney

Listen to the entire program on Food Safety:

More Information:

Post by Shuka Kalantari

Food Safety with Health Dialogues 11 June,2012Shuka Kalantari

  • michelle

    I’m trying to find out where these labs that will test soil for as little as $8 might be. This was mentioned in the story aired this week, and I assumed you’d have links online for the labs.

  • Hello Michelle,

    We just added links to resources for soil testing on the Food Safety page of our Health Dialogues website (http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R908202000/).

    Thanks for bringing it to our attention! You can scroll down to the bottom of the page for the links. The links are after “Segment 6: Soil Safety”, under “More Info.”

    Feel free to email me, the Health Dialogues Outreach Coordinator, at skalantari@kqed.org if you have any other questions about the program.


Shuka Kalantari

Shuka Kalantari is a Bay Area journalist reporting on health, food, culture and immigrant communities in California and internationally. She’s reported for Public Radio International’s The World, BBC World News Service’s Outlook, Philosophy Talk, Vice Magazine. Shuka is also a frequent contributor to KQED Public Media. You can follow her @skalantari on Twitter and Instagram.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor