With recalls of various foods from grocery shelves and from freezers and cupboards, many of us are rightly concerned about the safety of the food we consume. Even vegetables, which we are told to eat five servings of a day for our health, have made it onto recent recall lists. This is unsettling to say the least. Maybe even more so for those of us who pride ourselves on knowing that chips, cookies, and processed meats are not the healthiest food choices we can make.
We have learned to read food labels and most of us know what the basic food groups and the recommended daily servings are from each different group. We have of course been led astray at times by the carefully crafted gibberish about good carbs versus bad carbs, calorie restricting, portion control, and other nutritional fallacies put forth by food manufacturers and makers of weight loss products. But many of us never thought we had to worry about the safety of fresh, packaged and canned foods in our grocery stores.
Yet as the recalls on various foods found at our local grocers including bagged broccoli, salad greens, and canned vegetables, due to contaminates such as e-coli are quite worrisome indeed. This presents a real public health issue as e- coli, for example, can be deadly to small children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. You may know enough about the harmful additives that processed foods often contain that you have caused you to stop eating many of them, but now it is clear that even healthy foods like fruits and vegetables can be contaminated in their packaging for shipment to grocery stores and become unsafe for consumption. Let us not forget as well that fruits and vegetables are also contaminated by the pesticides that many farmers use to keep pests away. Organic farmers have developed ways to grow crops without the use of poisonous pesticides, which is why I always encourage you to eat organic.
Grocery stores themselves can contaminate foods like fruits and vegetables with practices such as applying wax and other preservation materials to foods to give them a glossy look and to preserve them for sale to buyers for longer periods of time. Most people are not thinking about this when buying fruits and vegetables for themselves and their families. Some people know to wash these foods before eating them, but others eat them without washing them first. Even rinsing off or washing these foods first will not remove all of the preservation substances that can be on them and that can also leech into the food itself. If you can trust the sources, there are those that say consuming small amounts of wax and other substances still present after washing pose no great health risk to otherwise healthy people. Frankly though it is getting harder to know who to trust on how safe these foods are and we need to be weighing the risks versus the benefits of consuming these foods for ourselves.
If you, like many other people, are finding yourself growing more wary about the safety of the foods you are buying at your local grocery store there is an alternative. More and more people are now buying organic foods including meats, dairy, and other by-products of organically fed animals. Grocery stores are starting to offer more selections of organic foods for consumers and they are healthier for you than the non-organic product choices. However, readying them for transport to grocery stores opens them to the possibility of being contaminated. When transporting food to stores you also have the environmental impact of the vehicles carrying those burning fossils fuels.
The safer, healthier, and environmentally responsible alternative is to buy organic foods from a local organic farmer. Many communities have farmer’s markets from which you can buy food from local farmers. Yes, these farmers still transport food to the farmer’s market, but they typically use smaller sized vehicles with less emissions and the distance of travel is significantly less as well. You can also watch your newspaper for advertisements from local organic farmers inviting consumers to come directly to the field where these foods are grown or to the land where animals are raised on organically. Some organic farmers that raise chickens, cows, lamb and other animals that we humans use for food can render the animals for you on site or have relationships with local animal processing plants that can save you money and allow you to know where and how this animal was processed. Buying from local organic farmers will reduce your overall grocery costs as well by providing the benefits of safer and healthier food choices for you and your family.