It’s funny how we don’t necessarily trust our government, or many of their initiatives. But when we search for information on the internet, we trust the ‘.gov’s as pura verdad. Think about it. I trust that I can visit www.dmv.ca.gov and get my registration renewal form. When its vacation time, I go to http://travel.state.gov/for travel safety updates and even helpful hints for flying. So what happens when these federally funded sources of information are providing faulty advice? Enter www.foodsafety.gov, “Your gateway to federal food safety information.”
I found that their latest article, highlighting the fact that over 15 million youth in this country are home alone after school and prepare their own snacks, offers plenty of unsound cooking-related advice, and in itself contributes to the obesity problem the federal government is working so hard to eliminate.
In an attempt to ensure that these young people are adequately prepared to create their own snack and “not mindlessly running to the fridge and then out to the t.v.”, the blog is neatly divided into 3 parts. I have scoured each part and have offered my critique and advice, having worked in professional kitchens and in culinary training for young people alike.
Part 1: Clean up first! Fair enough, it is important to make sure that surface areas, and hands are clean when preparing a snack. I found it interesting though, that beyond the reminder to make sure food items are stored quickly after use (especially cold stuff like eggs, milk, yogurt), this particular section did not make a lot of distinction on the importance of cleaning up AFTER. Failure to adequately wipe down surfaces (with disinfectant) could be an even greater threat in the long run than some of the germs they may pick up from petting Sparky on the way into the house. I found a great site that gives easy tips for cleanup. (Another note: this article never mentioned composting! Composting is one of the few clean up activities that is actually fun, and the whole process can be engaging for young people once introduced into the process).
Part 2: Foods to Avoid. Okay, okay, I’m not going to completely trash this part, fairly on point (except I will argue that a little mold on cheese isn’t the worst thing. Heck cheese is technically mold in the first place. So your cheddar has some spots….cut that part off! No sense in propagating wasteful habits when most of the world is in need! Here’s a great chart that shows what cheeses are safe to eat with mold cut off)
Part 3: When using the microwave….sigh. Okay, I’ll overlook the fact that carcinogens have been found in microwaved food, (and that the Nazi’s invented it in the first place.) I won’t even get into the details of the 3 major problems found from microwaves (1. Cancer-causing effects, 2. Destruction of nutritional value of food, 3. Major biological problems from exposure to micro-waves), although I do believe they are important should be noted in an article from a government program that promotes food safety. But…but…why should children be microwaving a snack in the first place? Let me see, what needs to be microwaved: hot pockets, microwave burritos, water for cup o’ noodles, microwave meals come to mind. These are not the types of snacks young people should be eating after school, for a myriad of health reasons. And let’s say on the defensive that they’re not eating these highly processed snack foods, what else could they be microwaving? Perhaps, last night’s leftover lasagna, or mac and cheese instead. Well, these are not technically snack foods. I remember being young, getting home from school and feeling like I could eat a horse. But the fact is, all I really needed was some fresh fruit (the glucose would have given me energy) some yogurt or milk, maybe some granola. I didn’t need a pre-dinner, when I was planning on eating a real meal around 7 o’clock.
Unfortunately, this article actually gives advice on how to read directions for our favorite snack (last time I checked, a banana doesn’t come with a label on how to peel it) and the importance of following the provided times on the back of microwave meals. It only gets better. Part 3 also is sub-divided into tips with specific directions for different microwave snacks: Jelly donuts, fruit pastries, and pocket-sandwiches are to be broken into 2 pieces prior to microwaving, for example. Jelly donuts?! I’m confused, I would think that Hot Pockets and jelly donuts should have been in Part 2: Foods to Avoid. Let me tell you, I’d rather have my niece eat a piece of cheese with a bit of mold cut off than to eat a Hot Pocket Philly Steak and Cheese Croissant (that’s their latest people!)
So in essence, this government sponsored site for food safety is actually promoting the eating of microwave meals and/or jelly donuts as an after school snack for children. This is the same government that is putting the obesity epidemic on the forefront of our nation greatest ills, and has the gall rip obese children from their homes and place into foster care. What’s more, is that they have been quite adept at effectively blaming the parents for the obesity problem, and failing in addressing community and economic issues, or ahemm… government messaging as another source of the problem. Now I know without a doubt that I will to go to www.irs.gov to get a copy of my 1040EZ next April. I will not however, go to www.foodsafety.gov when I’m looking for “Practical information and tips from the experts to keep you and your family safe.”