May 24, 2018
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Contaminated food stories make me want to eat local

Courtesy of Renee Ordway
Courtesy of Renee Ordway
Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

I went to a psychic “party” this week.

Before you set about judging me, please note that it was my first time and I went home with a pound of fiddleheads.

It is probably safe to say that only in Maine and only in May could you do that.

The reading was interesting but the fiddleheads were divine.

It’s spring.

It’s time for fiddleheads and farmers markets.

It’s time to eat local.

With each frightening and gory story about contamination in our national food supply, my resolve to eat locally revs up like a steroid-injected beef cow.

This week? Fecal matter in our ground turkey.

A Consumer Reports study found that half of the ground turkey samples they tested contained fecal matter and 90 percent contained at least one of the five bacteria they were testing for: salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, campylobacter, enterococcus and E. coli.

They tested 257 samples from 21 different states and 27 different brands.

The National Turkey Federation called CR staff “alarmists.”

Well, perhaps so because I was alarmed and I assure you my teenage son — who inspects every dish he takes from the cupboard to make sure it’s really, really clean — will no longer eat ground turkey.

He heard the news and he was alarmed beyond measure.

But of course it is not just ground turkey. Last month a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that progress in reducing foodborne illnesses have stalled.

About 1 in 6 people in the United States gets sick from eating contaminated food each year and that rate has not declined in seven years, according to a Time Magazine article.

I know about fiddleheads. I know you must wash them again and again and I know that you must cook them properly. If not, you may very well get sick.

I know that going in you see. That’s the difference. Fiddleheads are foraged in the wild and therefore certainly lend themselves to countless avenues of bacteria. Bears do their business there for Pete’s sake.

The difference is in the knowing.

For some reason most of us assume the tightly sealed and neatly packaged meat we buy at the grocery store is clean, bacteria-free and ready to toss on the grill.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Don’t get me wrong. I still buy meat at the grocery store. I’m not raising my own pigs or chickens over here on the west side of the city and I understand the allure of a good grocery store sale as well as the next person.

But with each and every “fecal matter” story my desire to buy as much local food as I can only strengthens.

On that note, farmers markets have opened or will be opening soon all across the state.

In the Bangor area we are blessed with the year-round European Market on Buck Street and the Orono Farmers Market which is open through November and opens very early in the spring.

The Bangor market opened last weekend and is held every Sunday in Abbott Square and the Brewer Market, one of the oldest in the state, is set up at the Brewer Auditorium.

With a renewed interest in farming, growers are finding ways to grow some vegetables, such as greens throughout the winter and bringing them to year-round markets.

Growers with cold storage areas or root cellars are finding a market for their heartier vegetables throughout the winter.

There are several cheesemakers in the area now. They are at the markets.

Most markets have chicken, pork and beef producers and people with fresh eggs.

There are no coupons involved but the selection is stunning, the other customers are friendly and so are the farmers.

You probably won’t get a psychic reading while you are there, but it doesn’t take a psychic to know that now more than ever, eating locally grown food when you can makes sense.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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