Monday, April 16, 2007

In Through The Out Door

An AP report just released revealed that only 1.3% of US food imports are inspected by the FDA. Consider this list of Chinese products detained by the FDA just in the last month: frozen catfish tainted with illegal veterinary drugs, fresh ginger polluted with pesticides, melon seeds contaminated with a cancer-causing toxin and filthy dried dates. More disconcertingly is the fact that US food imports are increasing at such a rapid rate that it won’t be very long before they equal or exceed US food exports. Without the resources to monitor increased incoming food shipments, that 1.3% will drop. If there ever was a time when we need to focus on locally grown food, that time is now.

There isn’t a guarantee that buying locally grown food will prevent any food safety issues. However, shopping lower on the food chain (i.e., buying locally) does allow you to at least get to know your farmer (or food producer) and their operation. It allows you to feel comfortable with where your food comes from based on empirical experiences, not some fancy label or empty government oversight.

The recent bout with deadly pet food is just one cogent example of how consolidated our mass produced food system really is. This is no different for food designed for human consumption. Much of the food found on grocery store shelves all comes from basically the same place, and you can’t find out where that is. But stop in at your local farm, or at a market that supports local farmers, and you can be pretty sure you’ll find out where your asparagus was grown and by whom. And although no one can guarantee absolute food safety at any level, the better you know your local food system, the less likely there will be problems.

Even with a hugely consolidated food system in this country, our own government can’t guarantee its overall safety, much less the safety of imported foods. Personal consumer responsibility has to take over. And given that not one of us relishes digging through a mass of freight containers, I suggest you find a farm, and its farmer, for your next meal. Come face to spear with your asparagus, and embrace it!

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Blogger Henry Neal said...

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12:43 AM  
Blogger The Expatriate Chef said...

Thanks for this post. I have been railing on the China import thing on everything from processed chicken, to the impact of imports on our farmers, to melamine and deadly contamination of drug products from China. I will be linking to this article from my site, I also post on the Eat Local Challenge and make a lot of posts on supporting local farmers and eating local. It's very important to me. Nice site, thanks!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Jessica Schessler said...

The percentage of food that is inspected is so outrageously low... I had no idea! I'm glad I finally made my first trip to the farmer's market yesterday! I'm definitely going to make it a weekly stop to get my groceries.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

When I was overseas, I had the pleasure of talking with a food industry person. They had identified spices (the import we forget about) as the last link in agri-business without any safety standards. Spices are "doctored" with a large assortment of chemicals to enhance color, texture, taste, smell, etc. His favorite example was the use of one enhancing chemical that had only been approved for use on maggots. Happy eating and pass the pepper.

Oh yeah, buy your food as close to the dirt it grew in.

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