Industrial food contamination



In the news today: salmonella on eggs distributed all over the country, including Washington state, is making hundreds of people sick.

After I read Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma I changed my shopping habits to seek out organic vegetables, fruits, and dry goods, meats grown without hormones or antibiotics, and dairy from cows not treated with RBGH. I was aware that I was still being fed by the industrial food system, although now at least I was in the organic branch. Still, I became increasingly mistrustful of that system just by paying attention to the news. The American woman’s diet called for a steak and salad for dinner. So now I was eating organic salad and “natural” meat, but how much healthier was that food, really?

In 2006 I was buying bagged lettuce from the grocery store for my salads. That year there was an e coli outbreak connected to California greens. It seemed that the source of the contamination was spinach, but it wasn’t certain. Washing didn’t help – the food had probably picked up the e coli while growing, so the contamination was not on but in the food. Hundreds of people got sick, and three died. Then there was the peanut factory that spread salmonella throughout the industrial food chain. The factory had found salmonella during internal tests in 2007 and 2008 but didn’t recall affected products. Their peanuts were in everything, crackers, cereal, ice cream. By 2009 the products had killed eight people and the FDA finally required the plant to clean up its act.

Whenever I think three or eight people aren’t a lot of people, I consider how I would feel if one of those people was someone in my family.

I figured that the only way to know if my food had been processed safely is to know the person who did it, or to do it myself. I set out to find food producers, to figure out how to do as much as I could in my own kitchen, and how to practice good hygiene in the kitchen. These days my eggs and chicken don’t come from Iowa, they come from Pheasant Fields Farms five miles away, and I’ll probably talk to Nikki at the Poulsbo Farmer’s Market tomorrow.

Local egg producers shaking their heads amidst recall
CDC, Multi-State Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 Infections From Spinach, September–October 2006
Washington Post, “Peanut Processor Knowingly Sold Tainted Products,”Lindsey Layton, Jan. 2, 2009
Pheasant Fields Farm

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