Rachel's Table

Another Reason to Eat Local

While running some work errands today, I happily listened to Here and Now on National Public Radio. John Lippert, a reporter at Bloomberg Markets magazine, shared his report “Danger on Your Dinner Plate.” I don’t usually like to be a harbinger of gloom and doom, but after discovering how lax food safety regulations are in our country and in other food import countries, I had to share.

Photo credit: Jamie Chung/Bloomberg Markets

I learned that 48 million Americans get sick and 3,000 die from food borne illnesses each year, a number that’s continuing to rise. I was surprised by this number, but even more surprised that most of those deaths are preventable with more stringent food safety audits.  Here and Now’s website explains it like this:

In a scathing look into the state of food safety, Bloomberg Markets is out with an in-depth report that says for-profit companies have quietly taken over much of the Food and Drug Administration’s role in inspecting food.

Third party auditors, as they’re known, are often hired by the food growers themselves, they sometimes don’t visit the plants they inspect and when they do, they only examine what producers ask them to. They also don’t have to make their reports public.

The Bloomberg report tells story after story of people who have gotten sick or even died from eating food that was graded safe by these auditors, including the 7-year-old Ohio girl who died in 2009 after kissing her grandfather in the hospital.

That light kiss on the cheek was enough for her to pick up the bacteria from the ground beef that had sickened him. The beef came from a company, Valley Meats in Illinois, which that same year had received a 95.5 out 100 safety rating from a third-party auditor.

The report is eye-opening and recounts some unsanitary (and often disgusting) practices happening at farms supplying food to Wal-Mart and other big name chains. See for yourself at bloomberg.com, or listen to the interview from today’s show:

So what’s a girl to do with this information? I could complain about the government, or be proactive and lobby for more stringent food safety laws (not a bad idea).  But I think I’ll take matters into my own hands and eat from local sources. When I know my farmer, I know how my fruits and vegetables are cultivated and how my meat and poultry is raised and processed, giving me peace of mind.

Food safety: yet another reason to eat local.

{This post part of Fight Back Fridays on Food Renegade}

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9 comments

  1. Scary stuff. Nice sound bite and post.

    You know we prefer to pick our own. It’s the only way to assure food safety, nutritional density, and reduction of energy useage.  I like to remind people that we are by no means on top of the food chain.  In fact, we may be aiding our own demise:  the denser our population grows, the more insidious the microorganisms that can harm us grow as well.

    Many veggies get cross-contaminated.  There are just too many steps in the process of getting it from farm to table to safely be “inspected.”  The cantaloupe scares are just skimming the surface.  Wash your veggies – always.

    Microbes are a big part of the reason we ditched meat. No one knows for sure how about his meat unless he is privy to the raising, killing, and slaughtering, and butchering of the animal all the way through to purchase. Beware the words organic, free-range, and grass-fed.  They do a little, but not a lot for meat safety.

    Microbes are everywhere.  The deadly ones loom anywhere meat is produced or where manure (a/k/a/ surplus from meat production) compost is used.

    • Shannon, you always have such great insight. I agree. I was going to say something about growing it myself, but I don’t have the capacity to do that right now. I don’t even know how I’m going to eat this winter!! A locavore winter is meager. I didn’t do as much food preserving as I would like. 😦 What do you do in the winter? I can imagine it’s hard, especially being vegan.

      • In winter, we can get by on less. We’re not as active outdoors (the weather sucks here in the winter, wet and cold, not snow and cold) and can subsist on fewer calories too. Winter’s a good time to live off those fat stores built during the Halloween / T-giving feasts.

        As for us, we rely on jarred sauces (Muir organic tomato is my favorite), whole wheat pastas, baked breads, legumes (hardly lovacore), squash (it’s what grows) and brassicas (kohlrabi, cabbage, broccoli) to mix it up. By February, I’m DYING for some fresh cucumber and tomato! In winter, the pantry keeps us alive, not the garden.

        Really, growing your own can be done in an entirely container garden, even in the off-season. Come to me when you’re ready and I’ll give you lots of info to start with!

      • rachelocal

        I’m def adding things like jarred sauces, pastas and legumes like lentils to my diet this winter. Otherwise I would only eat meat, and I’m trying to eat less and less. So where does one put a container garden, even in the off season?

      • Shannon

        I just ate a black bean soup that my mom tried – it was delicious!! And Angie Z. just sent me a similar recipe but with lentils. There is just so much warm comfy food for the tummy in the winter to eat, no need to turn to meat. Each fat gram gives you an additional 5 calories to burn, which is why “losing 10 lbs” is near the top of everyone’s New Year’s Resolution list following the holidays. LOL

        As for what grows and when in your zone, I will send you an email with some good links to get you going (based on where I think you’re located). County agricultural extenstions and master gardeners are a great place to start – like bloggers, eager to share info.

        A south-facing window is a great place to put a container garden. Here’s a great video for a wicking garden using a plastic bin (you can see the water level!) that you many have on-hand. A great start for an indoor “garden” that doesn’t leak water all over your carpet. I built mine “in-ground.” Works like a charm. (http://wp.me/p28k6D-eV) It currently has growing spinach and arugula.

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