Several weeks back, an investigation of tuna served in Chicago restaurants found that 70 percent of tuna sushi samples tested were contaminated with mercury. One in seven samples contained levels of mercury so dangerous they exceeded that of king mackerel, which the FDA says women and children should never eat. Even more recently, the outbreak of E. coli from fresh packaged spinach, which spread to 21 states and killed one person and sickened more than 130, has gotten everyone thinking about the safety of our food supply.
Of course, you think about food safety every day. Your reputation and livelihood depend on how diligent you are about serving safe food. But, damn, it's not getting any easier. How do you make your customers feel safe when they are bombarded by news reports of obesity, trans fats, acrylamides, allergies and a gazillion other food-related factors that can impact one's health? It makes you long for the days when your biggest concern was your competitor across the street.
But you are a foodservice professional. People are counting on you to have the answers. When you call a plumber or electrician to fix something, you want them to simply make the problem go away. That's how your customers feel about you. They do not want to worry about whether the food you are serving them will make them ill.
In the old days, you hoped your customers liked you and your business. Now, you better hope your customers also trust you. One little slip and you are toast. If food safety is not at the top of your priority list, it should be. And if your customers have questions about food safety that you can't answer, then it's time to school yourself.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation has excellent food safety programs that can help you handle any problem that comes along. In fact, the NRAEF recently issued a two-part special report that focuses on industry food safety best practices. You can find a link to that report by going to our website: www.restaurant-hospitality.com.
Further evidence that the America Norman Rockwell once painted has long changed came recently in a new Census Bureau report. The report found that 42 percent of Californians speak a language other than English at home. Of that 42 percent, 28 percent speak Spanish, with the rest speaking in another tongue. That should come as no suprise, since 27 percent of the state's population is foreign-born.
That survey of three million households found that one in eight residents are immigrants, which is up 11 percent since 2000. More than half of the immigrant population is Latin American, while 27 percent came from Asia. Nearly a third of all immigrants are from Mexico; that's 11 million Mexican-born residents. Only seven states have a population greater than that.
So, if you hope to continue living in a Wonder Bread world, move to West Virginia, where 95 percent of the residents are white and non-Hispanic. If not, then embrace the changing face of America.