First spinach, then beef, now tomatoes... All this has prompted me to go on a bit of rant this morning, so please forgive the "soapbox" approach... I just feel so strongly about this! (If you just want to read a current news release on the recall, scroll to the bottom of this post.)
There is a lot wrong with the way our food is grown, the way agriculture has become a business that rarely cares for the land or the animals on it, that uses chemicals and antibiotics and harmful processes to grow, harvest, and slaughter our food. The truth is, if we actually saw where much of our food comes from, we probably wouldn't want to eat it (especially meat, but commercial fields are also so chemical-laden that it is actually illegal in some states for farmers to take their children with them into their sprayed fields.... scary!!).
There is something that each of us can do about the state of agriculture and the potential dangers that are arising. We can support local, organic farmers who place the health of the land and all of its creatures at the top of their list of concerns. We can buy meat that comes from animals that have been allowed to see sunshine and breather fresh air, that aren't dosed up with antibiotics and growth hormones, and aren't pushed to their physiological and psychological limits. We can buy organically raised crops that are full of flavor, nutrition, and taste (remember what a real homegrown tomato tastes like??!). Our consumer buying power is the strongest statement we can make. If we demand these kinds of healthy vegetables and meats, the supply will follow.
One of the best web resources out there is Local Harvest, where you can search for local farmer's markets, CSAs, dairy and meat farms, and even order organic and specialty produce, plants, seeds and other products online. (If you live in southwest Michigan, you can find us, The Greater Green Farm, at the Allegan Farmer's Market on Thursdays.) Another excellent resource is the Organic Consumers Association, where you can read recent news topics, participate in online forums, and find lots of great organic-related resources.
Agriculture and factory farming has reached the state it has because we have allowed it to. We haven't stopped to ask enough why our food is so cheap, what methods were used to raise it, what chemicals might be contaminating us. It is not necessarily pleasant to have someone lecture you about the horrors of factory farming just as you are about to eat a juicy, delicious hamburger, I know. I spent many years ignoring those truths, which I knew, but could not face. They were too atrocious, and it was too easy to go to the store to buy cheap meat. But the truth has a funny way of finding us, and we are getting our fair share of warnings.
If you haven't read about the tomato recall yet, here is the transcript of a recent article:
Tomato Recall Has People Seeing Red
The Port Arthur News
By Amy Moore and Darragh Dorion
The News staff writers
Sun, Jun 08 2008
Some salads will be without the colorful red tomato as the fruit was recalled this week during a Salmonella scare. The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said Wednesday that that federal, state and local authorities are investigating a multi-state outbreak of the Saintpaul strain of the Salmonella bacteria. Health authorities say the investigation is in its early stages but that consumption of raw tomatoes has been implicated as the likely source of infections. Specific types and source of tomatoes remain under investigation. As a precaution, local grocery stores and restaurants have pulled Roma and salad tomatoes from their shelves.
“Ensuring the safety and quality of products sold in our stores is a top priority for H-E-B,” Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs and Diversity said. “We continue to monitor the situation closely and will return the product to our stores once it is absolutely safe for our customers.” Market Baskets across the area have taken the same approach and are holding on to their tomatoes until the investigation clears the fruit.
“We took all of ours and put them in the cooler. Those were our orders from corporate until further notice. We don’t know if the ones we buy were the ones infected,” James Morein, assistant store manager at Bruce’s Market Basket in Groves said. “When we hear, we’ll either toss them out or put them back.” Mike Coryell, manager at Port Arthur’s Jason’s Deli, said the restaurant has had several customers request to have their meals prepared without the supposedly infected tomatoes, but the store has already pulled the item from its menu.
“We’re waiting,” Coryell said of the store’s status. “The last we heard from corporate was that it was not a nationwide recall. They’re targeting shipments from New Mexico and Arizona and as a precaution, we pulled our tomatoes. That was last night (Tuesday).”
DSHS health officials have confirmed 21 cases in Texas since mid-April, including cases in Harris, Fort Bend, Dallas, Tarrant, Hays and Cameron counties. No deaths have been reported. Symptoms of Salmonella infection include headache, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and sometimes vomiting. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. In some cases people with severe diarrhea may need to be hospitalized. People with symptoms should drink plenty of water, get extra rest and visit a doctor as soon as possible.
Until the specific source of the illnesses is determined, health officials advise that people with increased risk of severe infection including infants, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems not eat any raw Roma or full-sized round tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home. To reduce the risk of Salmonella infection, people should avoid eating raw Roma or full-sized round tomatoes other than those sold attached to the vine or grown at home.