bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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XL Sh*t Show

The beef recall hullabaloo over XL Foods provides strong support for decentralizing our food system. When people all across the country, and into the States, are being affected by e coli from a contaminated plant in Alberta, it’s time to question our food supply system.

It’s a problem when only a few large companies are responsible for the majority of certain types of food. If something goes wrong then the danger is going to be far more widespread and more difficult to address than if you’re purchasing your foods from a small local farm. I would also argue that the risk of something going wrong is much higher with large-scale farms and processing plants. Oh sure, these places have all their HACCP and safety plans but they also have far more people working in them and therefore, more opportunity for errors to be made. I think that people working for local small-scale operations are going to take more pride in their work. They’re more likely to have close connections with their consumers and it’s generally regarded as good business sense not to kill or sicken your customers. In large-scale operations there’s a disconnect between owners, employees, and customers. If you’re an employee working for a large-scale meat-packing plant (or whatever food processing facility) you’re probably not making great money and you probably aren’t overly concerned about the product or the reputation of the company as a whole. It’s also a lot easier to pass the buck, or think that someone else is going to take care of an issue, in a large company.

When the beef recall initially began, it reminded me of Galen Weston’s off-the-cuff remarks that Farmers’ Markets were going to kill people. Even if beef sold at a Farmers’ Market was contaminated, the impact that it would have would be far less widespread than the impact being had by XL Foods. The best way to effect change is to put your money where your mouth is. Next time you’re buying food try to get as much as you can from local producers. The only way we’re going to get rid of these large-scale food production operations is if we stop supporting them.


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Food poisoning: the manly way to get sick

Now that summer’s finally here I thought I’d give you all a little refresher course on food safety. This will probably be old news to most of you, but maybe not… I was recently asked, “Do you think this sandwich is safe for me to eat?” It was a deli meat sandwich, turkey I believe, that had been unrefrigerated all day. I said, “No!”. This prompted a discussion in which it was implied that eating said sandwich would be the manly decision. Really?? Why the heck is risking food poisoning manly? Unless manly is now synonymous with foolhardy hmm… Anyway, I digress.

It’s important to keep foods at safe temperatures to inhibit microbial growth. That means the aforementioned sandwich should have been stored at 4C, or cooler. And once it was at room temperature it should have been eaten within two hours. After two hours in the “danger zone” you’re at increased risk for food poisoning. The foods that pose the greatest risks are moist, high-protein foods. Things like meat, poultry, fish, tofu, eggs, and cheese.

I could go on and on about food safety. There’s lots more to it than simply keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot, but those are two of the key tips, especially at this time of year when picnics and BBQs are commonplace.


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Galen Weston doesn’t care about small farmers

As you may have heard, Galen Weston really put his foot in it at the Canadian Food Summit 2012 yesterday. He made an off-the-cuff comment about how some day farmers’ markets are going to kill people. Naturally, that enraged many farmers in the room and others of us who support local food and community food security. I found it especially ironic as Maple Leaf Foods was one of the conference sponsors. Sure, people might get food poisoning from foods sold at a farmers market but that’s going to have a far less widespread effect than an outbreak in a food distributed by a national supermarket chain. Moving on…

Another thing that Galen mentioned was that Canada could become the world’s leading producer of pulses if we undertake a strategy like that of Brazil in cornering the orange market. I like that he recognized that we’re a major producer of pulses. I also like that pulses are an affordable and nutritious food; a high-fibre, low-fat meat alternative. However, I’m concerned about putting all of our eggs (or legumes/pulses) in one basket. Do we really want to be financially dependent on one crop? Personally, I think it’s better to diversify. Mixed farms are far more sustainable and efficient than large scale mono-crop farms. Growing one type of food is not the answer to Canada’s agricultural industry.