Trouble in the garden of eating



Air, water and food are basic necessities required to support human life. As a supposedly advanced society, we tend to take for granted a fourth ingredient in that survival recipe — trust.

The water contamination crisis in Flint showed the world that government officials cannot be trusted to provide safe water.

But my vent today is not about water quality. It is about food quality. When we dine out, grab a bite at a fast food restaurant or shop at our local grocery store — we expect the food to meet basic health standards. I am not singling out culprits but I have become warier than I used to be about what and where I eat.

Things came to a head in May when I read about a guy in Ann Arbor arrested for sprinkling rat poison and other contaminants on produce and open foods at several grocery stores. I get nauseated thinking about all the times I have trustingly sampled prepared foods at grocery stores. Now my trust has been violated.

Last year, I signed up for food safety advisory emails from the Michigan Department of Agriculture/ Food and Drug Administration. (You can sign up here: mdard/0,4610,7-125-50772_ 50776- –,00.html) At first, I was annoyed by the frequency of emails I started to receive about food contamination and recalls. But lately I am becoming alarmed. Between July 18 and August 1, I received 19 of them. That adds up to more than one per day.

Thankfully, none of those advisories were about foods I actually had in my kitchen but now when I shop for groceries, I carry a list of recalled brands to avoid, even, sadly, after the all-clear is given. Again, it’s a matter of breached trust.

When I was a kid, I spent summers at my grandmother’s farm. If I plucked a peach or plum from a tree, I did not worry about it being sprayed with poison. If we had chicken for dinner, it was one of my grandmother’s corn-fed, hormone-free birds. Ditto for eggs. Cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, sugar cane and a variety of fresh greens and peas were homegrown. I could walk down the road and pick my own watermelon -which was not seedless by the way. I don’t trust so-called seedless ones.

I am seriously considering the wisdom of returning to my farming roots.

I have never had the patience to do much gardening. But more and more, as I witness the rising tide of food, water and air pollution, it seems like growing my own could well be a survival instinct.

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