We are lucky enough in the UK to have a brilliant record for food safety – occasionally there is a horrible outbreak of E-coli and we suddenly realise that we are very vulnerable to the ill effects of our food. At least we have the legislative framework that helps keep food safety on the good side of the law but even so, we are still subject to food scandals and safety issues with our British food chain – recently, think horse. Many of us will have experienced the devastating effects of food poisoning – there are few episodes in life that are as unpleasant and so the need to keep our food safe is a very important part of having confidence in what we eat. Sometimes it’s not just unpleasant but a killer.
In developing countries food safety is often a critical issue – imagine being in an environment where inherently the food is very unsafe all the time (due to supply, heat, unregulated meat supply, no access to refrigeration). Here in the UK it’s a very different concern – we have often relinquished our trust and faith in food safety to the food manufacturers, and we are very distant from the base of our food chain; the growers, producers and the raw ingredient that goes into our food – the processing ingredients are all said to be long term safe for human consumption, but are they? Joanna Blytheman’s new book “Swallow This” looks at food safety as a detailed portrait of the safety of the food processing industry – worth a read.
Could Eating Locally be the answer to safer food in the UK? Eating locally cuts down food miles and is less likely to be off or unsafe, locally organically grown food will not be subject to pesticide residues, we can “connect” with the growers and form closer ties with our food. Of course this does not mean that you don’t have to always pay attention to the basics of food hygiene but you can then apply your own inherent instincts as to the safety of your own food – what does it smell like, what does it look like, does it look fresh? Although sourcing local food sounds like a utopian dream, especially if you are working long hours and the one ingredient you don’t have is time but with a few adjustments of your priorities, searching out local, fresh alternatives, could just hand you back your power and make you responsible for your own choices and ultimately keep your food safe.
- I have said this before – but an organic box scheme is a wonderful way to eat organic food – I love Abel and Cole for their excellent recipe boxes – yes, a bit more expensive but NO wastage – http://www.abelandcole.co.uk
- I’ve heard good things about RiverFord http://www.riverford.co.uk Farmers Markets – http://www.lfm.org.uk/markets-home/ (for London farmer’s markets or look at this review in the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/food-drink/the-10-best-farmers-markets-8521126.html
- Try your local independent health food shop – http://www.nahs.co.uk/
- Check out this article by the Campaign for rural England – http://www.cpre.org.uk/magazine/opinion/item/3751-a-better-future-for-food-shopping?gclid=CJnMys-exsQCFQTlwgod
- If you plan your meals better then it shouldn’t cost substantially more and you should be able to lessen food waste. You’ve heard it before but we throw away 15 million tonnes a year – I bulk out recipes with cheaper ingredients like organic mixed beans/tomatoes/lentils etc – this then goes a long way.
- Buy proper bread – see http://www.village-bakery.com – cut the bread up and freeze it to avoid waste
- Join Community Supported Agriculture – you buy a share in a farm and get a share of the harvest. http://www.soilassociation.org/communitysupportedagriculture
- Cook at bigger batch (eg a nice stew) and freeze it – this way when you buy organic meat , you can cook up quantity and save time in the preparation later on.