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Have you given much thought to where your food comes from? From farm to market to fork can be a long road. For the purpose of this post and because I have some personal knowledge I will focus on produce.
Have you considered how far your favorite apple or avocado, carrot or cantaloupe, romaine or rutabaga travel before making it into your grocery cart? Produce travels an average of 1500 miles from farm to market. This distance is mainly attributed to the fact that 90% of all fresh fruits and veggies are grown in California.
If you are purchasing your fruits and vegetables at the local grocery store you are the mercy of the food handlers along the way. You the end-user are dependent upon the distributor, shipper, processor, picker and grower to handle your food with the greatest of care.
From the farm to the plate could be as short a span as 1 week or as much as a month or longer. The more delicate the produce such as berries, lettuce and mushrooms, the quicker it shows up in the grocery store. On the other hand the more hardy the produce such as potatoes and onions can be held in storage for months.
With this in mind you have to realize that there are lots of people who handle your fruits and veggies before you do. This also means that things can and will happen along the way. Issues with produce are showing up more often in the news. In the past 2 months there have been recalls on the following items; bagged chopped romaine, cantaloupe, organic grape tomatoes, strawberries and baby spinach. If you would like to be notified of recalls on everything from food to medical devices check out US Department of Health and Human Services.
You should also realize that when good produce goes bad (so to speak) the problem doesn’t always originate with the grower. Once when I was working in the produce industry there was a food born illness attributed to strawberries. Dozens of hotel guests became ill after eating at an event.
It was the week before Mothers Day and our weekend shipments had arrived. Our coolers were loaded up for the biggest restaurant day of the year…Mothers Day!
When something like this happens the CDC, FDA and the local health department jump into action to try to identify the source of the outbreak. This particular illness was linked to strawberries. It was all over the news… the phones were ringing off the hook. Restaurant chefs and managers were looking for answers and reassurance that the strawberries that they were going to receive for the weekend were safe.
There had been no official recall issued. There was only a recommendation from the health department to avoid eating strawberries. So thousands of dollars worth of strawberries sat in the cooler and eventually ended up in the dumpster. Guess what? Months later the illness was officially linked to contaminated raspberries. NOT strawberries. It was determined that the 18 wheeler truck transporting the raspberries had a leak in its cooling system and contaminated water had dripped onto the raspberries.
It just goes to show that you never know what might happen on the road from the farm to market to fork.
Your best recourse and for the safety of you and your family it is best to try and buy local or grow your own. And even then…things can and will happen on the road from the farm to the fork. There are just fewer stops along the way.