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Joel Klebanoff: Stuff & Nonsense

To worry is to be. To be is to worry.

Food Signs

Canada is in the midst of a food scandal. Meat from one Canadian processor was contaminated with E. coli. U.S. officials learned about it fairly quickly and immediately closed the border to meat from that company. Canadians weren’t told about it nearly as quickly and meat from that processor remained on Canadian store shelves for an unacceptable period before being recalled.

We rely on government, industry, and company food regulations and inspections to keep our food supplies as safe as possible. If we can’t depend on them, that’s scary.

E. coli is not visible to the naked eye. And you’d have to be much more neurotic than I am to buy the equipment you would need to test for E. coli on your food at home. Considering how difficult it would be to be even a little more neurotic than I am, I don’t think many people have done that.

I don’t have any suggestions on how to guard against E. coli. Eliminating meat consumption alone won’t do it because E. coli can also hitchhike on fruits and vegetables. So, I’m afraid it’s the luck of the draw when it comes to E. coli. Thankfully, despite E. coli food contamination making headlines from time to time, it is exceptionally rare relative to the volume of food that the world consumes. (Although, that’s no consolation to the people who get sick from it.)

While I can’t help you with E. coli, there are food dangers other than E. coli that you can and should guard against. The following are some hints on how to identify food that belongs in the garbage, not in your mouth, no matter how much of a garbage mouth you may have.

  • Apart from any natural off-the-vine ripening of some fruits such as green bananas and green tomatoes into yellow and red hues, respectively, if your food is a dramatically different color than it was when you bought it, throw it out.
  • Even for food that ripens further after buying it and, in that perfectly healthy process, naturally changes color when you bring it home, don’t eat it if no one has yet invented a name for the color it has taken on.
  • If the best-before date is written in Roman numerals, don’t bother to do the translation. Throw it out or donate it to a museum. That perishable product has perished.
  • Most food should not normally have hair growing on it. Peaches can have a thin layer of fuzz, but a full-blown, dragging-on-the-floor beard is not a good thing. Most other fruits and vegetables should have no hair at all. Meats might be hairy, but only if you raise your own cattle. Once they’re butchered they should generally be hair-free.
  • If food moves of its own accord take evasive action.
  • If food that started out reasonably solid has turned to a liquid without the benefit of a blender, juicer or other similar device, don’t drink it! Instead, pour it down the drain. That may kill a few thousand fish, but better them than you.
  • If you briefly leave some food on the counter and see a cockroach slowly approach it, only to turn around and dash away as fast as it can when the smell becomes overpowering, that’s not a good sign.
  • If you put food out on the table, leave the room to call the family to dinner, and when you return to the dining room you spy a small, fresh nibble mark in the entrée and a big, dead rat beside the dish, you might want to give the main course a pass. And give the rat a decent burial. It might not have intended to, but it served as your food tester and inadvertently gave its life so that you could save your and your family’s lives and health.

One word of advice: If you plan to throw out any rotten food, don’t tell anyone about your plans. Just do it.

That’s a lesson I learned from practical experience. A few years ago, I decided it was finally time to scrub out my refrigerator, which had become disgusting particularly due to a large volume of long-forgotten food that had taken up residence inside. I was proud that, after a great many years of neglect, I was at last going to tackle at least this one consequence of my slovenly ways.

Deciding doesn’t always lead to doing, so I told a few friends about my pledge to clean my refrigerator. I thought this would strengthen my commitment to doing it. I figured that if I told my friends then I’d complete the job because I’d be too embarrassed to admit I hadn’t performed the cleaning deed when they later asked me about my adventure.

My strategy backfired. Somehow, Greenpeace heard about my plan. They immediately threw up a picket around my fridge. They claimed that cleaning it would lessen biodiversity because lifeforms that exist nowhere else on Earth had evolved in my refrigerator.

Unable to get past the protesters, I gave up. Now, I don’t know what to do with my festering fridge. I’m thinking of donating it to science.

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Categorised as: health


  1. So many quotable lines here, Joel. I may have to borrow a few. All in all, very sound advice!

  2. Arun Kishor says:

    Thank you. I know how selfish they can be(Weird thumps up smiley)

  3. Angie Alaniz says:

    I always leave your blog with many smiles. 🙂
    Thanks for all the tips!

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