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Tomatos: The New "Made in China"/Spinach/Mad Cow Disease....

As officials try to pinpoint the origin of a massive salmonella outbreak in tomatos, everyone is warning to stay away from all types of tomatos except cherry, grape, homegrown, and cooked tomatos, as well as tomatos with the stem left in.

To be honest, I have not been cognitive of what I eat lately due to working on the road and not having as much control of the food I put in my body but I do notice "we are not selling anything with tomatos in it" signs at many of the places I go. This is all very reminiscent of the E. coli infected spinach from two years ago and the crazy cows that seem to pop up every once in a while. I didn't let these affect me too much in the past and I won't let them affect me now, but then, I shop a little different than most people.

As population grows and the demand of food has gone up, the markets are dominated by giant, international corporations with many levels and many suppliers of their produce. The more extensive and complex a supply chain becomes (usually to cut cost), the harder it is to enforce quality control, and hold people accountable for their products. This is apparent whenever there is lead paint found in children's toys. Who do you blame? I personally think the company is to blame, know your product, be responsible for it. The companies of course will blame the people who assembled it, who will blame the people who made the parts, who will blame the......see where I am going with this? Atleast with a man-made product, you usually have some sort of trail of documentation to follow, but finding a farm in a country the size of the U.S.? We are spending a pretty penny to find that one out I can only imagine.

The main problem with buying produce from a big chain is when I go and buy a Washington Apple, I don't know whether it came from Farmer John or Philip Morris. There's no accountability for the food you purchase from you local major chain. Don't get me wrong, I buy food from these places when I have to but I usually search for an alternative.

What's the alternative? One of the things I enjoy most about the

weekends is wandering the local farmer's market. Besides the relaxation of strolling through the market and seeing a whole bunch of people out and enjoying life, I also get to do my week's shopping. I am fortunate to live in a city that has great local produce. When I pick up an apple from a stall at the Farmer's Market, I get to look at the person who is in charge of the farm and talk with them, whether it is about the nice weather or his or her farm. I don't know how much more accountable you can get. If I got food poisoning from something I ate, I would know exactly who to go to (although I highly doubt it would happen). Not only is it good for your health, it's good for the environment. By buying local and buying what is in season, you are not paying to ship something half way around the world, just so you can eat it in the off season.

If you are too busy to make it to the farmer's market, I would suggest joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. You sign up for food (they have different sized packages) to be delivered or for pick-up (depending on the program) on a regular basis. Again, you know exactly where the food is grown, it changes seasonally (a good challenge for aspiring cooks), and it provides high quality food to your table with little effort from you.

So let me guess, food is too expensive at the farmer's market? It is true that the farmer's market can be more expensive than big chains but the cost is marginal in the long run. With gas prices going up, the cost of transportation will increase at a much higher rate for food that travels longer distances, we might start to see farmer's market's get even more competitive. Besides, why don't you skip on the frappacinnos and start brewing some organic coffee at home or riding your bike or walking more places? If you choose to cook more often, you will make up the extra cost in the money you're saving by staying at home to eat.

"But the food doesn't look as nice!" While the food at the farmer's market won't shine in bright lights, it also won't fill your body with the waxes, pesticides, and chemicals sprayed on the food, do you really want to be eating all that? Besides, from my experiences over the years, farmer's market produce proves to be much more flavorful and enjoyable. Don't believe me? Walk down the isles and take some free samples, I bet you forgot what fruit tastes like.

Don't know where to start? Why don't you check out Local Harvest or use trusty old Google. If you live in a big city, you are BOUND to have a Farmer's Market or CSA near you. At least try it out for a little bit, if you don't like it, you are no worse off.


dee said...

"farmer's market produce proves to be much more flavorful and enjoyable"

i second that! farmer's markets for sure have better quality fruits and veggies... and i honestly think they look waaay nicer than anything bought at a grocery store.

adrian said...

"and i honestly think they look waaay nicer than anything bought at a grocery store."

That's funny that you say that because I think the same. I think it has a lot to do with what we grow up with or believe is good produce. So much of our perception of food is based of sight and smell that while we might think that farmer's market produce is better, some people probably think that it's not a good apple unless it's the crayola red and shiny enough to see their reflection.