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Food Contamination in Our Marketplace

Mar 24, 2008
More and more families are beginning to grow their own fruits and vegetables due to their increased concerned regarding the quality and safety of our food supply. In the past year and a half the pathogens in certain foods that we always assumed to be safe have accounted for illnesses in over 1300 people with at least three fatalities. Scientists are not really sure how these food staples became contaminated, and are increasingly concerned that our current methods of isolating the sources of contamination before this tainted food ends up in the marketplace are woefully inadequate.

There several reasons for this situation:

Mega sized food growers and processors now dominate the industry. This means that any contamination that arises will be epic in size and will spread over wide areas of the country.

A very outdated, overworked, and imbalanced food regulatory system which seems to be incapable or loath to properly police our supply chain.

Fresh produce is being consumed in much greater quantities than in previous years, which is a healthy trend, but much of this food is being consumed raw. While this is also good, the consumer needs to be sure the produce he is consuming is uncontaminated if it is not going to be cooked. Washing is usually not enough, as many of the chemicals and pathogens will stick to the produce surfaces.

Much of the commercial produce consumed today is grown in areas that also sustain the raising of livestock. Where there is manure on the ground, the possibilities of contamination explode. Water runoff, birds and wild animals are all capable of transferring bacteria to fresh fruits and vegetables. In places such as California, often called the Nation's Salad Bowl; produce, livestock, vineyards and dairies are all competing for the same limited space.

The distribution process also adds to the problem. These large processors ship to all parts of the country where the products are packaged and shipped under a myriad of brands and labels, so tracing the sources of contamination is extremely difficult

In addition to safety consideration, another good reason to grow your own produce is the fact that food shortages may become a reality in a relatively short time. The increased demand from developing countries for meat and dairy products as well as demand for more fresh fruits and vegetables plus the increased use of arable land for biofuel production, is leading to food shortages and dramatic price increases

As developing countries emerge from low levels of poverty, the demand for animal protein rises, which translates into growing more grain for livestock and dairy animals. The environmental impact of assigning more acres to grain fields could eventually lead to even greater shortages in our food supply and a loss of arable land due to erosion and poor management, such as the burning of the rain forests.

Finding solutions to these problems will take concerted time and effort, but if a majority of people worldwide had even a small plot to grow food in, it could alleviate this situation in a major way.
About the Author
Dick Murray is a retired urbanite who keeps his passion for gardening alive with pots of herbs on the window sills and the creation of
web site dedicated to vegetable gardening
basics. It is not the same as digging in the soil, but it works for him.
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