Thursday, October 20, 2011

Locavores Increase Food Contamination: The Strong Case Against Locavores

From Freakonomics, "Lessons of the Listeria Outbreak: Do Locavores Make Us Less Safe?" by Steve Sexton:
That the outbreak [of cantaloupe listeria killing 25] occurred on a small farm selling principally to regional buyers is an obvious point, but also an important one because this kind of food contamination is less likely to occur at the large-scale farming operations that locavores love to hate .... Comparative advantage explains why corn is grown in Iowa, almonds in California, and winter vegetables in Florida. The different regions, with different soils, land qualities, climates, and opportunity costs specialize because they can produce their respective crops better than other regions. Comparative advantage implies significant gains from interregional and international trade. And it isn’t just relevant to costs of production and farm yields. It applies also to food safety.

Some regions are just safer places to grow certain crops than others—a point made recently by long-time food industry observer Jim Prevor at his “Perishable Pundit” website. Colorado, he notes, is a particularly unsafe place to grow cantaloupes, which are particularly susceptible to contamination because bacteria can hide out in the crevices of the melon’s rough skin. Rains splatter mud on the melons in Colorado, requiring them to be washed post harvest, a process that can lead to cross contamination among melons and create the moist conditions in which bacteria thrive.

In contrast, dry summers in California and Arizona create safe conditions for cantaloupe production because the crops are watered by drip irrigation and are much less likely to get dirty. Consequently, California cantaloupes bypass the rinsing phase and are packaged dry, sometimes right in the field. But the local foods movement kicks comparative advantage to the curb, favoring foods grown within a certain distance over foods grown in the best conditions.
Read the entire post at Freakonomics.

1 comment :

  1. We should always make sure to eat the right food to avoid certain disease that we can get from contaminated ones. Foodlink Mandai of Singapore envisions to serve the best quality of food for everyone. I hoe that this establishment continue to provide this kind of services