Monday, January 19, 2009

Our scary food supply

Remember the good old days, when salmonella was something that was an issue with chicken or eggs? We've had recalls on spinach, tomatoes, cantelope, and now peanut butter.

Here's a good explanation of how these bacteria are ending up in plants
. Once groundwater is contaminated with animal wastes, it can multiply inside produce. Washing the produce doesn't necessarily take care of the problem. Our food supply, which is more centralized and globalized, means that outbreaks that would have once been local now spread nationally and even internationally. The latest peanut butter case is so large because one plant in Georgia makes peanut and peanut butter products that are sold to more than 85 companies. Since one of these products is large containers of peanut butter for nursing homes and schools, people who are more susceptible to the illness are the ones exposed.

I am glad I make my own peanut butter, because I don't feel comforted by this answer to the question of whether it's safe to eat a peanut butter sandwich: "The FDA says as of Sunday there is no indication that brand name peanut butter sold in grocery stores is linked to the outbreak." I don't know what to do about the produce... it's too cold here for gardening right now.

6 comments:

  1. You can find local producers at http://localharvest.org. A lot of people are now concentrating not only on eating locally produced foods, but eating seasonally as well. Makes a lot of sense.

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  2. I'm with Caroline. I sometimes for convenience purchase produce at the grocery but mine stocks local product. I go to the greenmarket whenever I can. I love buying food from the person who tended to it. You can also get other products like farm raised cheese and grass fed-free range meats at greenmarkets.

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  4. Have you thought about joining with another family and getting a share in CSA? I'd do it here but for the facts: it's rather expensive up front ($175) and I'm not a big veggie eater (and we won't say how the BF is about veggies...)

    I know when I worked in Infectious Diseases, there were salmonella recalls on cantaloupe but it was mainly because of the working conditions of the people picking them and was confined to the outside. I'm not sure how much you can protect yourself with really strenous washing but I know for some foods (esp. those with a hard rind), it's easier to get rid of any germs on them.

    It's pretty scary how one product at one or two plants can totally fudge up the food supply. As it is, I need to check and make sure the peanut butter crackers BF bought a month ago isn't in the group that's been recalled. Good post!

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  5. I have done the CSA and shop farmer's markets, in the summer. In the winter in Ohio, nothing is growing but the icicles!

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  6. I'm lucky to have such a great Farmer's Market (many, actually) in my town. The grocery store I hit for other stuff buys as much local organic stuff as possible. I thought the salmonella was on jalepenos, not tomatoes? And there's animal waste everywhere, I thought it was more from unsanitary working conditions, kinda like what LG said.

    Other than that, I keep my immune system healthy and active, don't use antibacterials or harsh cleaners.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07