Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Food News: Nutty News

To begin with, happy first post (and second day) of Vegan Month of Food. As I noted last Friday, each day will follow a theme for the month of October...that is unless I shirk my duties as a blogger and don't post anything...

Today, we highlight a bit of news from the food sphere. As a vegan, I definitely eat  my fair share of nut butter. It's filling, versatile, and a pretty good source of protein. It is also no stranger to salmonella outbreaks. High fat foods provide more favorable environments for the bacteria. And unlike many of our food-borne illness news flashes, salmonella in peanut butter is not a field-level phenomenon (like E. coli in spinach), but must occur after the roasting phase that kills bacteria. According to a Scientific American article from a few years back, the 2009 salmonella contamination can be traced back to infiltration of water polluted with animal fecal matter.

Well, a week ago, Trader Joe's issued a recall on its Valencia peanut butter. Since then, the manufacturer Sunland has recalled a handful of its distributed peanut and almond butters that were potentially harboring the bacteria. I could go ahead and blame the industrialization of the food industry for all these outbreaks, but the truth is that health standards have become more stringent, and with more oversight as the industry has become more mechanized in the past hundred years. However, what the NPR's The Salt points out is that the consolidation of processing augments the impacts and reach of the contamination so much more. Instead of a small plant recalling their limited distribution, these mammoth facilities provide peanut butter to major brands across the country.

Some call for more standards, more regulation. I wonder if we wouldn't be better served moving in the opposite direction of our current trajectory, decentralizing and going back to a (perhaps less efficient) smaller-scale distributed production model. Just food for thought.

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