BELTON, Mo. — Sixteen times a year, the chefs of CrossRoads United Methodist Church prepare home-cooked meals and ship them off, not to homeless shelters or church fundraisers, but to laboratories run under the Food and Drug Administration. For fifteen years, the church kitchen has doubled as a mobile lab to raise funds for the kitchen and for church sponsored missions around the world.
The program is set up to prepare foods that are bought in local grocery stores all across the country," says the FDA’s Kevin Cline. "We test it for pesticides and heavy metals, and it’s just like if you were going to the store yourself."
CrossRoads cook Martha McKarnin agrees. "Generally," she says, "everything is just like we’d do it at home."
After the food is cooked, it gets bottled, tagged and sent to a Kansas City lab, one of several food-testing FDA laboratories nationwide.
"It’s quite an operation when you think about it," says Martha Twente, another chef at CrossRoads.
The FDA hires more than 90 individual research projects similar to Crossroads to identify the sources and prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses, especially during the holidays.
"Because holidays present a number of unique food safety challenges, consumers should take appropriate precautions in handling, preparing and cooking foods,” the FDA bulletin stated.
The CrossRoads chefs say they are proud to help guard the health of U.S. citizens, and happy to participate in the unique time of fellowship.
"I enjoy the fellowship," says Dovie Lanos. "We have a good time doing this."
For more information on food-borne illnesses, visit the FDA Web site at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/tpholid.html.