Friday, January 30, 2009

Eat local, eat safe

I had a completely different post planned today, but decided to start a discussion instead. 

As I browsed my local paper on-line yesterday morning, I saw this, "Peanut recall grows as feds find problems at plant." The article goes on to say, 
Managers at the Blakely, GA plant owned by Peanut Corp of America continued shipping peanut products even after they were found to contain salmonella.

Peanut Corp expanded it's recall Wednesday to all peanut products produced at the plant since January 1, 2007...

More than 500 people have gotten sick in the outbreak and at least 8 may have died as a result of salmonella infection. More than 400 products have been recalled. The plant has stopped all production.

"We feel very confident that this is one of the largest recalls we've ever had," said Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA's food safety center. "We're still in the process of identifying products."

"Here is a company that knew it had salmonella in a product and still released it," said Michael Doyle, head of the food safety center at the University of Georgia.

Of course, that's not all.  Wednesday, my husband sent me a link to another food-related article, this one from the Washington Post, "Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury."
Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.
If these were isolated events, then maybe we could brush them off. But we're routinely seeing reports like these now. We've figured out in the last year that we can't trust the banks with our money. We've figured out in the last year that we can't trust the government or food manufacturers with our health. So who can we trust?

When we eat local, buying from area farmers, we have the opportunity to know EXACTLY where our food comes from. I bought those collards from Lois, and my tomatoes from Tanya, and those onions came from my backyard garden. And I know HOW they were grown because I ask.

When we know where our food comes from, when we are face-to-face with the farmers asking questions, when we visit their farms to see first hand how our food is grown... we are taking back control. 

When we eat local, we eat safe.

Of course, as I write this I have 1/2 a jar of peanut butter in the fridge and some rice milk, neither of which is local. And then what about the organic rice I buy? It's local (grown here in Texas), but I buy it from a company - not a farmer. So am I sure it's safe? 

There has to be a happy medium here. Most of our foods should, I think, come from local sources (because they are healthier for us and the environment that way). But I also think that we should be able to enjoy some of the foods we consider staples without worrying about mercury, salmonella, and all those other "nasties" that make their way into our food supply. What about rice, whole wheat flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt? For some of us, a few of these things might be local, but most of us can't go 100% local without giving up baking entirely. Is it possible to find a happy medium between a local diet and nutrient-dense, environmentally responsible, but manufactured food? 

So, what are your thoughts on the recalls? Do you think they have a long-term effect on the buying habits of Americans? Or is it temporary? At what point will the general population say, "enough is enough." How to we regain control in the insanity we now call the food industry? Is it possible to eat entirely locally or do we need to demand better standards of manufacturers too?

8 comments:

Seraphim said...

I found this quite interesting to read - here in the UK, this seems to happen much less often. Obviously it does happen, (who can forget BSE?), but it doesn't seem to be on near the same scale. I'm wondering why that is, and if it would be anything to do with the proportion of the food being produced within Britain (bearing in mind we're proabably the size of one state!)
It does make you think. I like knowing where all my food comes from. It does give you a sense of security, thats for sure.

Nice post :)

Beany said...

The recalls in some form or another has been going on ever since I began paying attention in about 2003-2004. When I visit frugal discussion boards there is alot of emphasis on low cost purchasing power of food since money is best allocated elsewhere (like car payments) instead of our bellies.

I think the fatality rate has been low. Once it hits a few cute looking kids, I think the way people shop for food will change. The stories will go something like this, "poor little betty bop had no idea what was lurking in that PBJ sandwich. Her mother wishes she didn't rely on marketing tactics to buy food. She vows to change now for good."

Heather @ SGF said...

Sera - It does seem to happen all the time. Is it just being reported more? I don't think so. And this is so far-reaching (as far as how many products are affected). It reminds me of the whole melamine thing.

Beany - I agree that the fatality rate is low, but could there be things in our food that are making us sick long term that we attribute to something else. The national food infrastructure is frightening and yet we're so dependent on it.

Jenelle said...

I am realizing how many worthy news stories are not reported on in the main stream media that should be. I heard no-one knew about Watergate, even though it was being reported on daily. Maybe in this case the public is tired about the bad news coming out about food and has thrown up their hands in disgust.

At an inauguration watching party here in Austin the speaker asked the audience about the news that is reported by the major news outlets and how all are biased. There was a student who believed that there wasn't any other news to be reported on. I find the disheartening that the next generation believes in the news that is reported, regardless of news outlet, to be the entirety of the news in the US and the world.

Heather @ SGF said...

Jenelle - You're right. You really have to invest some serious time to be well informed. Most don't bother although I admit I don't spend the time I should either.

Megan said...

It does seem to happen a lot. It's interesting, because this is a reason for buying local that I hadn't really given much thought to (there are SOOOO many good reasons!)

I would say that the food industry might have a shake-up similar to the banking industry, but people seem to be happy to get our banks back to the way they were--despite the fact that "the way they were" was the problem in the first place!
Maybe gas will go way back up again, and local produce that doesn't depend on fertilizers will just be cheaper. That would convince people!

Megan said...

It does seem to happen a lot. It's interesting, because this is a reason for buying local that I hadn't really given much thought to (there are SOOOO many good reasons!)

I would say that the food industry might have a shake-up similar to the banking industry, but people seem to be happy to get our banks back to the way they were--despite the fact that "the way they were" was the problem in the first place!
Maybe gas will go way back up again, and local produce that doesn't depend on fertilizers will just be cheaper. That would convince people!

Heather @ SGF said...

Megan - you're right. It seems like people are somehow satisfied with the system in place. Why are we trying to go back to that, when we could go forward to something better, safer, healthier? Progress doesn't have to mean bigger or more efficient. When it comes to our health and the health of the environment, let's just stick with better.