Unfortunately it has taken frozen berries contaminated with human faeces containing hepatitis A and a national public food health disaster in Australia to shine the spotlight on dodgy food safety practices!
This disgraceful act of poor product hygiene and quality control by authorities should alarm and be a warning to all countries around the world. By accepting cheap food imports and not funding appropriate resources for quality control on food, governments all over the globe are placing their people at risk.
Image above shows REAL frozen berries (not Nanna's)
Imagine for a second you were one of those who had purchased and consumed Nanna’s Frozen Berries thinking they were naturally good for your health only to find out they could kill you? Even worse, how about those poor people who have been feeding these berries to their children! Personally, I’m mortified just thinking about it and I hope those who have contracted Hep A (15 and counting) pull through without any long term health complications…
The problem of food quality or even food security can’t just be treated as an isolated incident or the blame pointed at one particular company because I know it’s much bigger than THAT and probably heaps bigger than people realise. In my opinion, food hygiene and quality control has been falling down the sewer around the world for decades and there are several glaring reasons why this is happening:
- Costs to produce – Growing food for a living/profit in the western world is becoming an increasing challenge due to the incredible rise of energy costs over the past 20 years. Farmers don’t just grow food for others out of kindness of heart – they need to survive like the rest of us! The reason berries are being grown in Chile, packaged in China, and then shipped all the way to be sold in Australia, is because commercially it’s TOO expensive to grow and package them at home. In many cases it’s much cheaper to import food from poorer countries. Australia has one of the best (if not THE best) climates for growing produce in the world, unfortunately it’s becoming too costly to do it. Yes, high wages also add to the cost burden and the political environment in Australia at present will see no changes to that either in the near future.
- Cost to monitor/quality control – Australia used to have stringent food quality control measures and tough biosecurity and in fact the laws are still very good but the problem is there are less people to enforce them. Sitting back on one’s laurels is a sure way to cop a blindside blow and that’s what happened with this latest berry disaster. Governments in Australia and the world are cash strapped so they hope by cutting back on those, “boring nothing ever happens because everyone self regulates anyway food quality assurance departments”, they can save some valuable money to use for better political gains. This is proving to be a mistake now isn’t it?
- International trade – Buying and selling goods/services from other states or neighbouring countries is a good thing but it needs to be done properly particularly with fresh produce (meat, fruit, and veg). If buying internationally (or interstate) means pumping food full of chemicals to ensure pest or diseases aren’t transmitted or cruelty to animals then I don’t want it. If importing food (fresh or packaged) is required then it needs to be carefully monitored and NOT simply waved through on the laws of probability that it should be fit for human consumption. Having said that, it has been proven definitively locally sourced food is not only safer, it’s also environmentally friendly because it uses less energy to get to the customer, less travel time means the goods are fresher, and it stimulates the local economy. Please consider buying local as a first option…
- Labelling laws – There’s a reason why labels on food products are difficult to understand, despite all objections by consumer groups over the past decade falling on deaf ears, and that is because most big producers want it this way. That’s right, labels on popular food items are deliberately tiny so a microscope is needed when doing the daily shopping just to see it and then if you can read them they are deliberately confusing to ensure the busy consumer gives up any scrutiny of the product and purchases out of sheer faith. Producers get away with misleading packaging and labelling in Australia and around the world because no one can stop them or has the will to introduce clear and concise labelling laws on food packaging. As consumers, we should only be buying products clearly labelled – that’s my advice. Any product with a label saying: “Made from local and imported materials” should be avoided unless you are absolutely sure of the product history and can totally trust the manufacturer!
- Consumer ignorance & complacency – Which leads me fittingly to my final reason why food security and quality control has been on the decline for years, and that’s us (you and me)… We should have been demanding quality and locally sourced products ages before the system started to break down. We need to talk with our feet and walk to our local producer for the majority of our produce turning our collective backs on inferior quality imports full of poisons and poo. We, as consumers, should not be complacent and blindly trust the authorities to do their jobs or provide good governance because if we do we do so at the risk of serious illness.
Hepatitis A infested frozen berries from Nanna’s is just the tip of the iceberg and there’s plenty more alarming issues regarding food quality that we should be worried about. It would be complete naivety to believe this latest health scare will jolt the authorities and/or the food manufacturers into tightening their food handling systems.
As I’ve said before (and I’ll say again) the best food is the produce we grow ourselves and it is easier to do than the majority of people think. We have berries from our backyard almost all year round and usually enough to freeze or preserve in other ways. Our berries are pesticide, fungicide, and hepatitis free, plus they cost hardly anything to grow!
Failing that, take the time to buy produce from a local producer you trust even if it does cost more because as the saying goes you can’t put a price on health…