Gone Writing

Phyllis Entis

A Decade of Old Habits

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Long before Gone Writing, long before Damien Dickens, long before Prompt Prose, and long before eFoodAlert, I conceived and wrote a book about food safety.

My book, I decided, wasn’t going to be a scientific treatise, incomprehensible to the general public. Nor was it to be a dumbed-down ‘Food Safety for Dummies’. It would contain sufficient scientific weight to be used as a college-level textbook; however, the information would be presented in a casual, accessible manner, with a minimum of jargon.

In 2004 I submitted my idea to Jeff Holtmeier of ASM Press, the publication arm of the American Society for Microbiology. He was excited by the concept, presented it to his editorial board, and, to my excitement, ASM Press offered me a publishing contract. After almost two years of writing, followed by a year of editing and preparation for publication, Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives was born.

Today, January 8, 2017, I am celebrating the tenth birthday of my book with, I must admit, mixed feelings. The good news is that Old Habits (my working title) is as relevant today as it was the day of its release. The bad news is that Old Habits is as relevant today as it was the day of its release. Despite the passage in the US of the Food Safety Modernization Act, despite stepped-up enforcement of food safety regulations and criminal prosecution of the most egregious violations of the law, we still confront many of the same issues about which I wrote ten years ago. And we are still woefully deficient in educating consumers in safe food-handling practices.

Ten years ago, I wrote:

We live in a world in which we are vastly outnumbered by microbes. We touch and are touched by millions of microscopic beings every day. We cannot – nor should we want to – avoid this contact. After all, most microbes are either beneficial or benign. Even so, we can’t ignore the health risks presented by a small minority of pathogens that may be present in our environment, including in our food and water. We owe it to ourselves, to our families, and to our communities to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of our food and water supply.

Some old habits are good ones; they should not be changed willy-nilly. But old methods need to be reappraised in the light of new information, and new habits should be formed as new procedures and technologies are developed and validated.

Each of us – consumer, restaurant owner, food service worker, meat or poultry producer, farmer or food processor – must make a commitment to learn correct procedures and to apply them consistently. No one (except for those few who deliberately contaminate food) intentionally causes foodborne illness, nor would food producers or processors make a conscious decision to save money by cutting corners if they knew that a food poisoning outbreak might result.


Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives is available from Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

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