News - March 28, 2013

Food chain

As a child I loved going 'to the land' with my father. He had a small trailer attached to his bike that I was allowed to sit in. On the way back I sat in amongst the harvest, which varied according to the season. Carrots, cabbages of all colours, green beans, potatoes. It was a great feeling. What I enjoyed most was digging up potatoes. I looked for new potatoes in amongst the clods of earth, and that evening we would fry them up.

The papers have been full of food fraud stories in the past few weeks. Horse meat instead of beef, dolphin in tins of tuna. Carcinogenic substances that get into milk through cattle feeds, Halal meat that contains pork, regular eggs (What do we mean by regular?) sold as organic eggs... There have even been substances added to meat to make it heavier. And all this is just the tip of the iceberg, consumer organization Foodwatch assures us. The real problem, says Secretary of State Sharon Dijksma, is the long chain between producer and consumer, so from field and barn to the dining table.
I am reminded of Christien Meindertsma's fascinating book, Pig 05049, in which she shows where the various parts of one pig end up after its death. And I am reminded of the old days when the lines were short and we knew exactly what we were eating. Well, perhaps not exactly. Almost everything was sprayed, preferably with parathion. The bottle was in the shed alongside a lot of other poison. It was purplish brown and it sure smelt bad. And when he had diluted it my father always added a generous dash extra. Just to be on the safe side.