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Crack FDA team deployed to make sure food at inauguration is safe

January 18, 2013|By Rosie Mestel | This post has been corrected. See note at the bottom for details.
  • Workers prepare the stage on Friday for Monday's inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
Workers prepare the stage on Friday for Monday's inauguration ceremony… (George Bridges / MCT )

With the presidential inauguration days away, the Food and Drug Administration wants to assure us that the food to be eaten amidst all the pomp and circumstance won’t give anyone a nasty case of food poisoning.

“This week, at the request of the U.S. Secret Service and D.C. Department of Health, we’ve assembled a team of 35 FDA staff from across the U.S. including 18 experts in retail foods and field inspection,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said on the FDA blog.  

“Their mission? To work closely with the D.C. Department of Health, local county health departments in Maryland and Virginia, and the FDA Baltimore District Office to make sure that the food served at the inaugural ceremony and parade, balls and galas is safe to eat.”

The crack team will review menus, observe food preparation, train workers in safe food handling and make sure they have the data they need to trace any contamination back to its source.

The FDA did the same thing for the last inauguration, and Hamburg estimated that they oversaw 100,000 meals that time around.

No plans that we’ve heard of to confiscate knives and forks at festivities where President Obama is present, but the estimated calorie count of the inaugural lunch caused some folks to complain.

The published menu -- steamed lobster with New England clam chowder sauce; hickory grilled bison with red potato horseradish cake and wild huckleberry reduction; and Hudson Valley apple pie with sour cream ice cream, aged cheese and honey adds up to 3,027 calories, 71 grams of saturated fat and 9,752 milligrams (!) of sodium, according to the calculations of registered dietitian Rachel Berman of CalorieCount.com. Plus wine.

(For comparison's sake, the Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta is the all-around high-calorie entree winner in the Center for Science in the Public Interest's 2013 Xtreme Eating Awards, clocking in at 3,120 calories with 89 grams of saturated fat. Look to your laurels, Cheesecake Factory!)

“In light of the first lady’s obesity initiatives and the fact that the menu was made public, it was definitely a missed opportunity for nutrition education,” Berman said in a Diets in Review blog post.

[For the record, 3:11 p.m. Jan. 18: A previous version of this post mistakenly referred to the website Berman works for as CalorieControl.com. It is CalorieCount.com.]

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