When I’ve written about food borne illnesses in the past, whether it was Mad Cow or E.Coli, it was always in the abstract. Though the news stories surrounding both of the topics above seemed pervasive in the national media, I never seemed to know of anyone, or be contacted by anyone who had been directly affected by those diseases.
Over the past several days, this has changed.
I’ve spent the weekend reading both e-mails and comments from people who were/are directly affected by the Salmonella outbreak from Conagra’s Peanut Butter. I’ve heard from wives who watched their husbands suffer after they had eaten an apple topped with peanut butter, to parents who were horrified that they fed this garbage to their children. I read about people blaming their water supply to people thinking that it was a bug going around. Everyone one of these people have communicated shock and dismay that it was a simple jar of peanut butter that has affected their lives so.
To these folks, I can only say a few things.
First, I am sorry you had to go through this. I realize that this may sound shallow coming from someone whom you have never met, but I do feel as frustrated as you do. As anyone who was near me can testify, I could not stop bringing this topic up this weekend. I understand that you had put your faith in a system, and that system has failed you.
Secondly, use this as a learning experience. Be mad, but be smart! If you have recently eaten the peanut butter, SEE A DOCTOR! Then, go home and wrap up the peanut butter and take it to a lawyer. Do not throw it away, as it is now evidence. Keep it out of the reach of children, and keep it stored in such a way that it will never be used, but keep it. This goes against what both Conagra and the government are telling you.
Long term: keep up to date with the producers of food, and ask yourself relevant questions regarding your food decisions that you make with these producers. How many recalls is too many for a company to have? Are you willing to pay more for brands that have a better track record with safety? Which companies own your favorite brands? Where is your food is coming from?
We are entering a new era of food production and distribution. And evidence is coming in that we cannot put blind faith in any company that puts food in our pantries and on our tables. It is up to us, as consumers, to hold them to the standards we want and to hold them accountable when they fail to meet those standards.