Sunday, December 17, 2006

Food for thought

Here’s a thought or two on something that has the potential to bring our country to its knees….

We have all heard talk about threats to the Internet, banking, the stock market, our water supply, transporation, etc. Has anyone considered what would happen if terrorists hit our restaurants?

Think about it. There are roughly 935,000 restaurants in the United States, and, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2007 forecast, sales are expected to hit $537 billion next year. Yep, $537 BILLION. (http://www.restaurant.org/research/)

In Georgia alone we’re expected to have spent $12.6 billion in restaurants when the ball drops on New Years Eve 2006. There are approximately 366,000 individuals working in restaurants in Georgia. That’s about 9% of our work force.

That’s a lot of money and a lot of food. It’s also a huge segment of our workforce.

I hadn’t given it much thought until all the recent problems with salmonella and E.coli problems. Taco Bell is taking a major hit because of the E. coli illnesses relating from, at last check, lettuce (http://www.fayetteforum.org/2006/12-8-taco-bell.htm). There’s another E. coli situation developing at Taco John’s restaurants in Iowa and Minnesota that appears to be unrelated.

Not to long ago we were all scared to eat spinach and some (many?) are still foregoing touching the iron-rich green veggie. In the past month or so there have been four recalls of cantaloupes due to a salmonella outbreak. In reviewing the recalls and alerts that have floated into my inbox over the past few months there are untold numbers of known issues with our foods. Undeclared milk, sulfites or nuts in products, lead in containers or lids, or one of the five most common bacteria that cause illnesses, Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli O157, Campylobacter and Clostridium perfringens seems to pop up at least once a day anymore. (http://www.fayetteforum.org/foodweeat.htm and http://www.fayetteforum.org/recalls.htm).

All a group of good (bad) terrorists needs to do to bring us to our knees is slide over our southern border with other illegal aliens, go to work in various food producing fields and defecate in the water.

Can you imagine their glee as they plot to devastate our country by doing what comes naturally?

Not only will it affect the restaurant industry, but it’ll knock a hole in other food related industries including our grocery stores. When Taco Bell thought their E. coli problem was due to bad onions, they changed distributors. As it turns out, it wasn’t the onions. Of course, the same distributor may have been providing them with their lettuce, too. Grocery stores were hurt badly when we had the spinach scare. All spinach growers took a hit. The transportation industry may have been hurt to some degree. People all along the chain probably lost jobs.

I’m just touching the very thinnest surface with my speculations. Those who are “in-the-know” are much more capable of extrapolating the impact on our economy. I would imagine that somewhere some homeland security types have already considered this scenario and are looking into upgrading the latrine situation for workers. Maybe there are agents working undercover at farms. Possibly more regulations are being imposed to require fences around water supplies or other safeguards to keep workers from pooping in the water supply.

Quite truthfully, I don’t see any way to stop this from becoming a reality if some group puts their minds to it. You can’t guard the water supply all the way to its source. The cost to sterilize or treat water before spraying it on growing crops would be astronomical. It’s not a pretty picture when you really start to think about it.

What’s the answer? Better minds than mine will have to figure that one out! All I know is that I find myself choosing veggies I can cook rather than raw foods like lettace and spinach unless they're locally grown. And, while I still eat out, it's not quite the easy, don't-give-it-a-second-thought event that it used to be.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Here we go again...

It's going to be a long time before many are willing to put spinach back into their diet... at least the fresh bagged type. I don't know what it did to the frozen spinach industry. I do know that one of my favorite foods at the Village Cafe stopped being served until just recently! I love their spinach and substitute extra instead of whatever starch is being served.

Over the past few weeks I've received four, yes four, different recalls from different cantaloupe producers. Salmonella again. Another industry hit and probably hurting very badly.

Then there is the eColi scare with Taco Bell.

Taco Bell is owned by Yum, Inc. They also own KFC, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A&W All-American Food restaurants. If you'd like to know more about Yum, here's the link: http://www.yum.com/about/default.asp

The scallions that caused the problem for Taco Bell came from Boskovich Farms in California. The distributor was the Texas-based McLane Co. In the release below, I noted that Taco Bell has changed distributors. I wonder if ALL the restaurants owned by Taco Bell's parent company (more than 34,000 in 100 different countries) will switch if they are using the onion-supplier?

The producer for Taco Bell is Ready Pac Produce. I believe, but haven't confirmed, that Ready Pac was also mentioned in conjunction with the recent spinach scare? I have read a number of news reports stating that thus far Ready Pac has come up clean in the testing being done. I'll do a little checking around and let you know if I find any real connection.

If you've never ever thought about how food reaches your table, it's something worth looking into. It's amazing how our food is processed... Who owns what is also rather interesting!

Back to salmonella! If you'd like to read the four cantaloupe recalls, all four are posted here: http://www.fayetteforum.org/2006/11-17-rio-vista-cantaloupes.htm

Here's the link to the Taco Bell story: http://www.fayetteforum.org/foodweeat.htm/12-8-taco-bell.htm