The news of the impending sale of Smithfield Foods to CHINA has many people worried about food safety, economic stability, and future sales of US businesses. As I commented on FB, I’ve seen “Contagion” and I’ve read about China’s horrible, horrible problems with meat safety, so I can only say I am thankful I gave up eating meat 2+ years ago!!!
The story, and the images from China, caused me to recall some of my food experiences from childhood. My children and grandchildren have grown up with the majority of their food pre-packaged and purchased from a third party. With the exception of some garden vegetables and fresh fruit, their food today has been handled by dozens of people before it gets to the table. We’ve all been lucky that we have not encountered very many problems. I have only experienced a few incidences of food poisoning, only one bordering on serious. I once found a large piece of plastic in some frozen broccoli, and a piece of buckshot in a restaurant burger. Other than that, no problems with the food supply.
What is even more surprising is that I can’t remember ever being sick from something I ate as a child! When we visited my grandparents in Oklahoma we drank raw milk and ate homemade butter. My grandfather made his own sausage and my grandmother Della served us home-canned vegetables and homemade pickles. My grandmother in California killed her own chickens, made hominy with lye, made hogshead cheese from scratch, and canned everything from the garden. My father killed our pigs and hung them from a tree in the yard to butcher them. We picked vegetables from the garden and I often ate fruit off the trees without even washing it! Mom canned or froze most of our vegetables, plucked eggs out from under our own hens, and killed young chickens when we needed meat for Sunday dinners. And as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve eaten a variety of wild animals killed and prepared by my father- ducks, doves, deer, rabbits, squirrels, fish, etc. How did I live through all that?
I suppose the big differences between the food supply I knew as a child and the one I rely on now come down to time and distance, quality and quantity. Because so much of our food is shipped to us from other areas it has to withstand the time and perils of that shipment. So we have food that is genetically altered, picked early, or “preserved” by chemicals in order to reach us in a form that is still desirable and edible. Did you hear that Twinkies now have a “shelf life” of 45 days? I’m afraid to ask why. And “Hostess won’t disclose the change in the recipe that allows it to extend the shelf life.” Quality and quantity are affected by the mass production of ANY food. Old food is sometimes used; lots of different raw ingredients are mixed together; food is processed in HUGE portions; mistakes are made.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention that in the food industry, as in most manufacturing, lies are told. It is a fact of modern life that we can seldom know EXACTLY what is in our food because in order to make a bigger profit corners are cut, substitutions are made, and artificial chemicals are added to foods without our knowledge. Companies adhere to the “letter of the law” and often have teams of experts finding loopholes in the system. I read the labels, but I can’t understand many of the words without the help of Google.
Smithfield’s CEO says the pork deal “won’t affect food safety”. I think I’ll wait and see...and keep these lips away from meat.