The headline was an attention grabber.
As an eater, how could I not be curious? How could I not need to know what, exactly, might be laced with illness-inducing bacteria?
Granted, most times, I stop reading such stories, penned more and more frequently, after the first few paragraphs. By that point, I’ve determined that whatever the contaminated food is, it isn’t a threat to me because it’s either a product or particular brand I don’t buy.
But a recall this week hit a little too close to my immune system. The produce being recalled was chard, kale, parsley and various other greens — my favourite vegetables, to boot — and the brand was one that my local grocery store carries.
This is where I should I breathe a long, deep sigh of relief because I grow my own chard and buy my greens from a local farmer. Well, I do those things but red flags still went up over those greens.
It’s late December and my garden is long gone. I have no cold frame to keep my greens growing in these current temperatures that inspire hibernation more than germination. I’ve moved my chard plants indoors where they have stopped growing and eased into their seasonal slumber, resting up to take off again outdoors in the spring.
As for my purchases from my much loved veggie lady, Linda, they still happen but didn’t before Christmas. They got lost in the rush of getting things done and spending the precious few last days I had with a sick and dying cat. I simply wasn’t up to the 40 minute drive to Wainfleet to pick up the chard I would need for the chard gratin I had planned to serve on Christmas Eve, so I headed to my de facto green source: the grocery store. There, I found large bundles of leafy Swiss Chard, adorned with its Little Bear label straight from Texas. Far from desirable but given the circumstances, it had to do.
So, it was a little tough not to be alarmed when I saw a story warning people about Little Bear chard this week and its possible salmonella contamination. Granted it was for leafy greens shipped to Canada between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. Mine were bought on Dec. 22 (should I be relieved?) and if anyone still has greens kicking around from nearly a month ago, I can’t imagine it’s because they’ve been saving them for a special occasion to eat. They likely were forgotten about and given the recall, it’s a good thing. For those who had eaten their purchases, well, if you’re reading this, I can only assume you got through unscathed. Fortunately, my family seems to have.
Still, there was more to my reaction, summed up by someone on Twitter, who thanked me for tweeting the story, letting other greens lovers know so they wouldn’t get green around the gills.
“I had some of these greens in my fridge. Makes me so angry,” the tweep wrote.
That’s exactly how I felt. Angry. Angry at the false sense of security I have when I buy food at the grocery store. Angry that my trust in what I’m being offered at said grocery store has been broken. Angry that I didn’t take the time to drive out to Wainfleet. And angry that yet another food recall has happened.
If this is the price we have to pay to feed ourselves en masse, something is seriously wrong. How did this happen? What corners were cut in Little Bear’s large scale production to put me, my family and countless others in possible danger? Isn’t this yet another sign that something in our food system is not working? That the way the collective ‘we’ do things when it comes to producing food is broken and needs to be fixed?
Angry is starting to sound like an understatement. Where do I sign up to rise up?
The giants in the ag world might be cutting corners but lesson learned here. I’ll take those corners, thank you, especially if they’re en route Linda’s farm and her safe, conscientiously-grown greens.