Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More on the tomato imbroglio

Thanks, everyone, for your comments on my tomato post. JaneAnne, you're right that accountability is complicated. I asked Marion Nestle a related question a few months back and this is what she said:

We do have plenty of food safety agencies, and that’s the problem. They have different missions and methods and have many overlaps and gaps, some of them so absurd that they would be hilarious if the problems weren’t so serious. The Government Accountability Office has been screaming for decades that we must do something to fix the system, and the only likely fix is to establish one food safety agency to oversee the whole food system, from farm to table.

My mother e-mailed me to say that if she waited for her garden-grown tomatoes she wouldn't eat tomatoes until August! Growing your own is a great solution, but it's not the only solution. I gave up growing tomatoes because we don't have a water source on the roof (tomatoes get thirsty and demand buckets and buckets of water to be carried up two flights of stairs) and because the night critters kept nibbling.

Farmers markets aren't going to save everyone, either. I believe the New York City greenmarkets accept food stamps -- I don't know about elsewhere. But still, local produce tends to be too pricey and inaccessible for many people. I know I nearly passed out when I paid $10 for five Jersey tomatoes last weekend.

And just to put things into perspective, because I know I come across as a locavore zealot sometimes, eating local foods in season is an ideal but it's impractical for most of us to apply exclusively. If I did that, it would be apples and Jerusalem artichokes for us all winter.

I did pay more attention to buying local produce at the Coop this week and I ended up buying a lot of greens -- that's what's in season here at the moment, I guess. I highly recommend sorrel, which had a lemony flavor. We've been eating red-leaf lettuce, mizuna, arugula, and sorrel salads this week and I've loved it.


Cafe Johnsonia said...

I'm nervous about buying tomatoes. I'm not sure mine will be ready until August either. Just today I made up my mind to just wait--you know, better safe than sorry.

BTW--are those your nasturtium blossoms??? Mine still have yet to bloom.

Brian Charles Clark said...

WSU Extension Launches “Food Safety in a Minute” Podcast Series

RENTON, Wash. - An outbreak of salmonella in tomatoes and spinach takes food off the grocery shelves. Avian flu in chickens and BSE in cattle result in the destruction of millions of birds and cows. A natural disaster shuts down electricity, and your refrigerator warms up. Is your food safe to eat?

A new series of podcasts from Washington State University Extension helps answer some of these questions. Each “Food Safety in a Minute” podcast offers listeners a handy, easy-to-apply tip. The first in the series is available Wednesday, June 25. Additional podcasts in the series will be posted each Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

With 76 million Americans a year experiencing a food-borne illness, this is a series you, your readers and listeners, and your family can’t afford to miss.

Simple practices like washing hands, keeping the kitchen clean and cooking foods properly are only the obvious first steps in keeping food safe. As consumers we think know how to tell food that is safe to eat from food that is not—but the “sight and smell test” is not a reliable method of detecting food pathogens. Spoilage micro-organisms don’t make us sick, pathogens do—but food containing pathogens such as E. coli or salmonella look and taste just fine.

The Food Safety in a Minute podcast series addresses a wide gamut of issues, including holiday food safety, packing school lunches to insure children are eating safe food, how long to store canned food, and many other topics.

Visit the Food Safety in a Minute Web page at to download the first in the series. Subscribe to the RSS feed to insure you don’t miss an installment. Each podcast is one minute long (and a one megabyte download or stream), making it perfect for use on radio and for the general public on the go.