Monday, May 21, 2007

Closer to Home

This article in the Washington Post is really no surprise but it is really disappointing. Of the thousands and thousands of shipments of food stuffs and materials that eventually show up in our food the FDA is only inspecting a small percentage. What they are inspecting is showing a large percentage of "bad stuff".

Tainted Chinese Imports Common
In Four Months, FDA Refused 298 Shipments

By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 20, 2007; Page A01

Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical.

Frozen catfish laden with banned antibiotics.

Scallops and sardines coated with putrefying bacteria.

Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides.

These were among the 107 food imports from China that the Food and Drug Administration detained at U.S. ports just last month, agency documents reveal, along with more than 1,000 shipments of tainted Chinese dietary supplements, toxic Chinese cosmetics and counterfeit Chinese medicines.

OK so what? Do you check the origin of everything you buy and eat? Can you? The reality is that a large percentage of what is available in most American supermarkets is anonymous when it comes to where it came from. Even if you wanted to avoid Chinese made or produced food you wouldn't necessarily be able to from your local Kroger or Publix. There is no law that requires food to be labeled with its origin. Whole Foods typically tells you the source of most things but as far as I know it is an exception and that doesn't apply to all the processed foods even there.

You can do something about it however and that is shift your food buying to sources closer to home such as farmers markets and local food co-ops. We have been made accustomed to being able to buy any food we want, regardless of the season, by the easily available foods from the other hemisphere. On my shopping trip through Whole Foods yesterday I had choices of apples from New Zealand and Argentina amongst others. Same with pears from Paraguay and Chile. The only lemons and limes available were from Mexico though there was a lot of stuff from California such as spinach, broccoli, carrots etc. There were hothouse tomatoes from North Carolina and green beans and corn from Florida. Kinda hard to shop locally but at least I had some choices. I could choose the tomatoes from the next state over instead of the ones from California. I bought some Georgia peaches (most of this years crop was killed from the late frost so I was surprised). I still know where everything came from and had to make a conscious decision to buy something I knew had left a significant carbon use trail to get to me.

Bottom line is that I am going to become more and more insistent in knowing the source of my food. I am going to start nagging the managers at Kroger and Publix to begin labeling their food with point of origin and I am going to be visiting my local farmers market every Saturday. I am also going to start making a bigger effort to grow some of my own food. I used to grow a big garden and freeze and can what I couldn't use fresh. I started traveling a lot and used that as an excuse but I am going to figure out ways where I can do both.

When you stop and think about where we would be if our transportation systems were compromised and we couldn't ship food across the country or the world on a whim it is pretty frightening. If we support local food producers they will grow in number if they can make a living and we won't be so dependent on people on the other side of the country or the world for our daily bread. It makes sense.

Steve over at YDD has more.

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