In my perfect world (or what I would do if I won the lottery), I would buy the most fertile, unspoiled block of acreage far away from the city I could find and upon it, I would build a farm. I would raise my own cattle and sheep and goats and poultry, and grow my own fruits and vegetables. I would make my own sausages and cheeses. I would pay family-sustaining wages to legal Americans to help me harvest and can my vegetable and fruit bounties. And I would share with them part of all of our labors, a food bonus, if you will.
This has been my greatest dream for as long as I can remember, and I am certain the real reason why I so love canning the foods I find at roadside stands and farmer’s markets every Spring, Summer and Fall. And never has this lifestyle of self-sufficiency seemed a necessity to survival more so than today.
This year alone has brought us staggering harm to our beloved pets and story after story showing how vulnerable our own food supply really is. We found that China was using melamine to fraudulently up the protein content of wheat flour used in pet food and that very additive that the US bought in untold tonnage was the lethal ingredient that has killed thousands of dogs and cats. Next came the information that unused and contaminated pet food was sold to hog and chicken farmers. Yet the FDA and USDA has told Americans that the risk of food contamination is “low.” They presume so because their stats show Americans eat less pork than other meats. They deliberately evade the subject of poultry and egg consumption. Testing of the chemical’s entry into our actual food supply has NOT even been conducted…although news last week carries the intent that the FDA soon will.
Just today, May 8th, comes the story that melamine has also contaminated farm-raised fish. Read about that here: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/050907dnnatfishcontaminated.1870f24.html
Believe it or not, once upon a time prior to the huge food globalization push of 2000, America produced its own wheat gluten. Then, after the globalization treaty, China came in and undercut American producers to the quick. Out of the four firms churning out wholesome wheat gluten at the beginning of 2000, only two survive. Today, the remaining two are below 20% capacity in their output, because they can’t compete with China’s slave-labor-driven low prices. And those are not so low after all when you consider the amount of poisoning they are bringing. Read more here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/4775769.html
Over this past weekend, the NY Times offered a lengthy tome about China and its fraudulent substitution of diethyline-glycol for glycerin, an extremely common ingredient in just about every medication sold over and behind the pharmacy counter, and is found in every bottle of makeup, every lipstick, every brand of toothpaste, every soap – liquid or solid – every hand and/or body lotion, and just about every single hair care product.
Read the NY Times’ “From China to Panama, a Trail of Poisoned Medicine” here:
Let us not overlook Bovine Spongiform Encephaly, or “Mad Cow Disease.” It is widely held that Economics caused this one, by ranchers switching from more expensive soya bean meal protein supplement to animal by-products. Before Mad Cow arrived on the world stage, the FDA turned a blind eye to the worldwide practice of using meat and bone meal, produced from the ground and cooked left-overs of the slaughtering process as well as from the cadavers of sick and injured animals such as cattle, sheep, or chickens, as a protein supplement in cattle. Evolution took it from there. And there is huge evidence of this cattle disease tracing through our beef supplies worldwide to a new form of a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, among other woes. Americans seem to ignore that our beef alone and for years contains large quantities of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, fertilizers and chemical proteins.
Vegetables have also taken center stage in recent months as our spinach and lettuce crops were tainted with E. Colli. Tomatoes and mushrooms have also very recently become victims. More recently was Peter Pan’s devastating battle with salmonella, something we once thought only tainted uncooked chicken and pork. And to top it off, the FDA knew about the E. Colli and salmonella plagues at Peter Pan and
California’s Salinas Valley (major source of US-grown leaf vegetables) for YEARS before the recent outbreaks. Read here: http://www.drudge.com/news/93626/fda-knew-years-potential-problems
I am absolutely incensed that our vegetables and non-meat food suppliers and producers are assumed to police themselves with practically no oversight. Meat, at least, is judiciously inspected…but not the additives that are fed to the stock.
And just yesterday – underscoring why I have always refused to use microwave popcorn is this story about how fumes emitted from a chemical additive that gives the popcorn its butter “flavor” is causing debilitating, irreversible pulmonary disease: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/us/06butter.html?em&ex=1178596800&en=a40b9580fc2767ce&ei=5087%0A
Wait, there’s more! Far beyond the mercury known to ruin shellfish freely sold in our markets, Chinese-supplied catfish sold in four Mississippi grocery stores were found contaminated by an antibiotic banned by the FDA. As if Mississippi really needs to supplement its own healthy supplies of catfish? It’s all in the money. Chinese catfish is cheaper to buy than homegrown. Read about the tainted fish here: http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070503/NEWS/705030390
And did you hear the one about the FDA recall last month on imported olives because of the potential for causing botulism? http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01608.html
In March, the FDA recalled millions of bottles of water shipped to California under at least five brand names from Armenia for containing arsenic. http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2007/NEW01594.html
Also in March, the entire baby food line produced for HEB Grocery stores (largest independent chain in
Texas) was “voluntarily recalled” since particles of GLASS were found by consumers in some jars. http://www.heb.com/aboutHEB/media-PR-BabyFoodRecall.jsp Heaven knows, infant formulas are also not immune from troubles, certainly including the recalls for improperly sealed containers, or containers found with itsy-bitsy pieces of black plastic nestled amidst the powder. How about this story from the FDA regarding their recall of a Mead-Johnson formula found to have bit of METAL within some of the containers! http://www.fda.gov/bbs/topics/NEWS/2006/NEW01323.html
I am amazed at my own naiveté in assuming any of the food I buy is safe, and the relative few examples I cite above are sincerely only the tip of a monstrous iceberg. Who would ever think third-world food woes would infect the United States in this day of Whole Foods and Central Market? But the plagues are long here and increasing exponentially. What happened? Globalization, supply and demand, and simple economics are the three culprits off the top of my mind. And, in short, we are each to blame.
For me, I’m digging into basics as I have never done before. For years I have bought vegetables at farmer’s markets and enjoyed canning with a frenzy. I make my own jams, jellies, pickles, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, salsa and put away short tons of properly canned beans, peas, squash, Brussels sprouts, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and peppers. Heck, I even make my own candies and home-grown hooch! We give a lot of these items away in Christmas baskets to clients, who LOVE them and always ask for more and more. Now the hobby has clearly become a necessity.
We allowed our government to kill off most of the local farmers to our various areas and now is the time to bring them back. I strongly encourage you to support them with everything you can and spare yourselves as many chemicals and poisons as is humanly possible. And if you decide to can, like I have, for GOD’s SAKE, please learn how to do it safely! It doesn’t require rocket science and is actually easy to do, but there are strict rules to follow so you don’t poison yourselves and loved ones. See your local County Extension site for invaluable information.
And when I say support your local farmers, I am NOT including the hoards that show up in droves bringing vegetables from Mexico! Get to know your farmers. Talk to them. And grab your kids and drive up to their place to help them pick. It’s a great family outing…and how I end up with the best Wise
County peaches and blackberries every year.
As I always say, it’s good to be old enough to know how to keep going when the lights go out. I encourage you to do the same. Your family’s safety may well depend upon it.