Friday, June 26, 2009


Keeping up with frightening food events in our food supply is getting quite exhausting. One of the most annoying aspects is that just as you think you can forget about one of the outbreaks, you realize it is still out there. And contaminated products might still be out there too, waiting for us, innocent consumers, to pounce on them.

Take peanuts. The PCA incident that blanketed our country (and a few others) with salmonella-contaminated peanuts and peanut products should be well over by now. The plants have been shut down. More than 2,100 products in 17 categories have been voluntarily recalled by more than 200 companies, since January, 2009 (probably more, as the FDA information is at least a week or two out of date). Hundreds of people have become ill and some have died. But guess what, it's not over.

There have been more peanut product recalls in the last few days, including one yesterday. More or less ditto for pistachios. The most recent pistachio one - just four days ago. No wonder I could not get any at Trader Joe's on Wednesday when I wanted to make my usual favorite of herb cornish hen, stuffed with raisins and pistachios (I settled for pine nuts instead).

But back to peanuts. Yesterday's recall really illustrates the oddity of our so-called food safety system. Nuts for You of Preston ID is recalling Roasted and Salted Peanuts manufactured with peanuts bought from PCA. The product was distributed between March 15, 2008 and Jan 15, 2009.The sell-by date on the plastic bag of 'Nuts for You' was Feb 18, 2009 (more than four months ago) . Presumably the nuts were purchased sometime in 2007 from PCA's Texas plant to make these cute bags of salted peanuts sold at gift stores.

So here we are on June 25, asking consumers to send back products made of antique nuts (maybe two years old) that are well and truly expired and, are very likely to have also been well and truly eaten. The really bad news is that this type of pattern is not unusual.

Nuts to you, FDA. How are we supposed to escape bad food in America?

bon appetit!


Monday, June 15, 2009


Well, it happened before I got down to writing on it. 'Swine Flu,' which is really not really the pure porcine variety, but a 'novel' type of Influenza A (H1N1) has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Americans are anticipating a huge immunization campaign in late September and traders are happily buying shares of all the companies promising to have masses of the vaccine ready by then. At least 3 companies are at the field trial stage with their vaccines. Meanwhile, there are some great scam vaccines being sold over the Internet.

Many schools are still shut down, people are nervous, and the number of illnesses keeps growing. From April 15, 2009 to July 24, 2009, a total of 43,771 confirmed and probable cases of infection were reported in 53 states, DC and Puerto Rico. Of these cases reported, 5,011 people were hospitalized and 302 people died. On July 24, 2009, the CDC gave up counting. According to one model it developed, which takes underreporting, lack of testing and other such factors into account, there have most likely been around a million cases of this flu in the U.S. between April and June.

I was one of them. No, it wasn't much fun. But frankly, not that bad either. I've had worse. And while it is reputed to be very contagious, my husband did not get it. Nor did my friends.

To the main issue: the question in many peoples’ minds has been whether one could get this unpleasant flu from eating pork or pork products. The answer is 'NO' - well, at least, not from pork.

The markets certainly have seemed to think so. Because there had been a number of cases of ‘swine flu’ in the U.S., and more were expected, U.S. hog prices and even the value of shares in meat companies fell as a result. Several countries banned U.S. pork and there was fear that more would join in.

The FDA ,the CDC and other government and private organizations with vested interests, have busily telling consumers - and reassuring our trading partners - that our pork is perfectly safe to eat. This flu virus is spread person-to-person like any other ‘flu virus, usually when an infected person sneezes or coughs or when the virus lands on a surface that you then touch and later touch your food, bite your fingernails or suck your thumb. Naturally, we don’t normally go around licking door knobs or stairway banisters, and hopefully, not sucking our thumb too often either. Although, certainly, this is a very 'fingernail-biting' time in our economy and many of us are taking up the habit every time we check our bank account or credit card statement.

But what about restaurants? The same situation applies, but of course, if a restaurant worker sneezes on your fresh tomato or lettuce – or, your fork - and you then put it in your mouth ….well…..Although the FDA and CDC are not admitting it, it is quite possible for people to catch swine flu from their food – but maybe from their salad instead of the pork chop.

Bon appetit!