Slow food safety

Safe with slow food?

The MicroGnome has been asking “is is safe” since an unpleasant encounter with an unidentified food-borne pathogen overseas at the end of 2010. The subsequent enteric fever episode put our favorite gnome out of action for a whole weekend, but it took weeks to restore him to rude good health.

Not that long ago the MicroGnome fell foul of another food-borne pest. This time he caught it red-handed and was able to name the culprit as Salmonella Typhimurium. Once again he suffered a febrile episode, rigors and sweating episodes, followed by measurable weight loss. Try as he might, the MicroGnome failed to implicate the faulty foodstuff, but he has a shrew idea what it might have been.

Throughout the year our toll of food borne infection is a disgrace. We really have to ask ourselves if we can’t do a bit better than this in sourcing, preparing, cooking, serving storing or distributing foods. Surely a developed country can get its food act together and avoid the majority of foodborne disease?

It is fascinating how the Slow Food movement has caught on in a part of the world where good food is a matter of national pride. It is perhaps a little surprising that the likely food hygiene advantage of sourcing ingredients locally, sticking with what’s in season and aiming for the freshest food available has not been trumpeted more. Perhaps it’s because in Piedmont, the home of the Slow Food movement, outbreaks of foodborne infection are unheard of. A quick scout through on-line sources failed to find any reports of slow food-associated infection, but you’d be right in pointing out that an absence of evidence is not quite the same as evidence for absence.

This has to be an issue for debate: motion – Slow Food in the strict sense of the term reduces the risk of foodborne infection. Let’s hear from the movement, and from the fast, convenient food industry. We need hard data to inform our opinions. And if the Slow Food movement is right, they may need reclassification as a public health intervention.

MicroGnome, May 2011.

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