There has been a lot in the British media about the horsemeat discovered in dishes labelled as beef. Now it turns out that some of that horsemeat may in fact be donkey (see an article from the Independent here). For me, there is no difference between any of them – horse, cow, donkey. They are all meat and I avoid eating that. BUT I do find it shocking that most of us have no idea what we are eating. Unfortunately, short of growing everything and making all our own food, it’s hard to escape this uncertainty.
I often think about what I am eating. And I have to say that often I am not entirely confident that I know what it really is. Honey doesn’t have to be honey from bees. In other words, just as “beef” might be from a horse, honey might be sugar syrup. I buy local honey, and I trust that the man handing over a jar of brownish liquid is telling the truth when he says it comes from a hive in his back yard. I have to trust him – that or demand to see where he lives. Then I’d probably be arrested. I buy natural peanut butter with only two ingredients. It’s a pain to stir in the oil when I get a new jar, but at least I know what peanuts and salt are. Yet if you read the FDA Food Defects Level handbook (and yes, that’s my idea of fun) , you will learn that “Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 110.110 allows the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish maximum levels of natural or unavoidable defects in foods for human use that present no health hazard.” This means my tasty peanut butter may contain:
|Average of 30 or more insect fragments per 100 grams|
|Average of 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams|
That’s a nutritious breakfast of PB, rodent hair, and insect fragment on toast. But it’s OK because the FDA determines the significance of these defects to be merely ‘aesthetic’. Well, that’s a relief. There are similar entries for anything else you might care to eat (or might not care to eat after reading too much). But I trust that the PB I’m eating falls on the low side of the count (or if I’m really optimistic, that this batch was clean).
Every food purchase we make is based on trust – the producer, the supplier, the final vendor – we trust that what they are selling is what they say it is. How can we know? Does it worry you that perhaps you don’t really know what’s for dinner?