There’s been a lot of chatter around food recalls this past week. Of particular interest is the March 4 recall of Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP), a by-product of breaking down protein (typically from soy, corn, or wheat) into its amino acids to use as a flavor enhancer in packaged foods. HVP is found in thousands of processed food products, including instant soups, hot dogs, veggie burgers, sauces, and gravies. A manufacturer of HVP, Basic Food Flavors out of Las Vegas, Nevada, detected salmonella in a batch of the product and reported to the FDA for investigation while continuing to ship its product. About one month later, the FDA announced the recall.
One month later.
While still no illnesses have been linked to this recall which includes over 100 products, it’s yet another symptom of a food safety system that needs serious rehabilitation. With the President committed to improving food safety in the U.S., the American public is waiting with baited breath. The current bill in Congress introduced in June 2009 would give the FDA more power over recalls and establish performance standards to prevent contaminants. There is another much more controversial bill introduced three months prior also making its way through Congress that would give the FDA a heavy-hand in inspecting facilities, ordering recalls and strict regulations. Criticized as a one-size fits all approach for food processors, it remains menacing for small farms where record keeping, testing and other measures may be difficult to comply with. Should small producers selling from their farm houses or traveling to weekly farmers markets be held to the same standards as industrial farms delivering to supermakets and wholesale chains nationwide?
I must say I’m feeling pretty smug these days knowing that My New Years Resolution to eat more whole, fresh foods and seasonal produce is paying off in more ways than I anticipated — safer food was not on my original list of reasons why I went local. As I think about the Responsible Eating post this week, food safety enters into the equation. Is local food safer? Arguably, yes. It generally travels through less hands (and machines) in preparation, packaging and shipment; and less miles traveled to point of sale. Overall, there are less opportunities for ‘local food’ to become contaminated.
Relying less on packaged foods has been an outcome of my efforts, along with purchasing fresh produce straight from the proud farmer who grew it. With pride, comes a great sense of responsibility, not only for the farmer, but for the consumer as well. Ask questions as well as read labels. Develop a rapport with growers to establish a business relationship that, in turn, nutures a safer food system. Here’s how I’m working with my network of food producers:
- Pesto Pasta with kohlrabi leaves and arugula pesto (Greensgrow CSA, Superior Pasta, and Highland Orchard Farms)
- Sweet potato and rutabaga fries with olive oil, salt and pepper (Greensgrow CSA and Landisdale Farms)
- Chuck Roast in crockpot with onions, garlic and shallots (Natural Meadows Farm, Landisdale Farms, Paul L Keagy & Son)
- Bibb lettuce salad with Sprinter Slaw and hard-boiled egg (Highland Orchard Farms, Landisdale Farms, Hometown Provisions)
- Toscano kale salad with shredded winter radish, yellow onion, kohlrabi and a hard-boiled egg (Weavers Way, Lancaster Farm Fresh, Paul L Keagy & Son, Landisdale Farms, Hometown Provisions)
For more information on food additives, check out this link for food additive descriptions and recommendations on including each in your diet based on current research. For more information on food safety bill, this link from Cornucopia breaks it down in a chart.