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Don't Worry, Be Hungry.
February 14, 2009 11:50 AM   Subscribe

Foodies, gourmands, and gluttons! Courtesy of those muckrakers at the New York Times, consider this recent op-ed piece. For those still pissed about the Times cheerleading us into Iraq, skip it and just dig this handbook from your federal watchdogs to determine just how much rat shit may have been in those beanie-weenies you enjoyed cold from the can last night at 1:34a.m. Handy alphabetization makes finding your favorite processed foods easy as pie.
posted by barrett caulk (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I worry more about the pesticides in my food in regards to insects. I don't know what the ultimate balance is, but anything that disables the hardy nervous or reproduction systems of worms and roaches isn't something my gut can defend me against.
posted by Brian B. at 12:05 PM on February 14, 2009


It's dangerously naive to think that there isn't some amount of "foreign material" in everything you eat. Eating a tiny amount of rat shit won't kill you, even though it may gross you out. The whole idea of the USDA's regulations is to keep it to a decent minimum, because it's impossible to eliminate completely. Humans have been eating hairs, scabs, twigs, feces, small rocks, and other such minute effluvia for centuries without too much harm. Just don't overthink your plate of beans and you'll be fine.
posted by briank at 12:12 PM on February 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


briank: "It's dangerously naive to think that there isn't some amount of "foreign material" in everything you eat."

Indeed. The numbers in that op-ed would be laughed at by any fancier of Sabrett hot dogs.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:13 PM on February 14, 2009


Deceased: Well. Let's see.. what's the grossest thing I ever ate?
Angel: You don't want to know.
Deceased: Oh. Okay. What about the 200th grossest thing?
Angel: Okay... that would be some butterscotch pudding that had a dead earwig in it.
Deceased: [grimaces] Oh, gross! You mean I never tasted it?
Angel: Well, you made this very funny face... but you were watching a football game on TV at the time.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:25 PM on February 14, 2009


In an attempt to regain their credibility, the UN has been using your post title as the centrepiece of their current Horn of Africa campaign.
posted by gman at 12:29 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


i dig you, briank. i'm not at all worried about consuming rat shit or maggots in small doses. i do think it's cute that as a nation of processed food consumers that (most, maybe?) americans tend to equate industrial processes with safety and sanitation. that is, if they bother to think about how their food gets to their pantry at all.
posted by barrett caulk at 12:37 PM on February 14, 2009


The last time I bought those peanut butter cups, the ones that come two to a package, I basically inhaled the first one whole. I was hungry. But I then looked down to take off the wrapper from the second cup... which upon removal revealed two fat white live squirming bugs ....ooooooaaa...

I haven't eaten peanut butter cups in the ten years since.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:38 PM on February 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Back in Germany in the 1970s we used to shop at the American commissary, and it was pretty normal for cookies and regular Kelloggs, Post, and General Mills cereals to be infested with weevils, moths, bugs, and so forth. This wasn't just a dirty cargo hold, as the vermin was usually inside the airtight plastic bags. The time on the freighter just gave it all time to hatch and grow into healthy little specimens. If something was infested, you just threw it out and got something else to eat.
posted by crapmatic at 2:09 PM on February 14, 2009


Ignorance is bliss.
posted by rand at 2:12 PM on February 14, 2009


i do think it's cute that [...] americans tend to equate industrial processes with safety and sanitation.
I find it depressing that some people automatically assume that the existence of these regulations must mean that non-regulated foods must have less crap in them. What do you think the level of such foreign material is in non-industrially produced food? Have you ever been near a garden or a farm?

The op-ed is credited to “a creative writing professor”, so maybe I shouldn't expect much in the way of critical thought… no, no, that's not true. I expect a certain capacity for critical thought from any competent adult, and that op-ed is below the threshold.
posted by hattifattener at 2:18 PM on February 14, 2009


Mammalian excreta...
SIGNIFICANCE: Aesthetic


I beg to differ!
posted by JeffK at 2:19 PM on February 14, 2009


I can't help but remember Eric Schlosser's line from Fast Food Nation:

"The medical literature on the causes of food poisoning is full of euphemisms and dry scientific terms: coliform levels, aerobic plate counts, sorbitol, MacConkey agar, and so on. Behind them lies a simple explanation for why eating a hamburger can now make you seriously ill: There is shit in the meat."
posted by theoddball at 2:22 PM on February 14, 2009


I find it depressing that some people automatically assume that the existence of these regulations must mean that non-regulated foods must have less crap in them.

What non-regulated foods do you mean? If I buy a head of lettuce full of aphids and cigarette butts I can see them and wash them off, so regulating non-processed foods seems weird.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:41 PM on February 14, 2009


gman, you are a sick, sick man :D
posted by liza at 3:19 PM on February 14, 2009


JeffK: I beg to differ!

I dunno. If food manufacturers were to, say, actually include scatalogical references in product names, it might go over a bit better. "Betty Crocker's Fewmets and Fettucine," for example.

I'm curious as to how such regulations apply to raw foodstuffs. The spinach recall, for example, should've taught us some lessons - for example, that it's possible to die while eating a bag of friggin' foliage. Our beef is still suspect, we've lost the ability to safely eat raw eggs, never mind raw chicken, the fish is so loaded with mercury that eating ahi is like chewing a damn thermometer - raw vegetables used to be the fallback item for the "death by food poisoning" argument.

It's probably just safer to grow Quorn in the damn basement and eat that.
posted by FormlessOne at 3:49 PM on February 14, 2009


It's like my grandma used to say: "Ya gotta eat a peck of dirt before you die."
posted by SteveTheRed at 3:58 PM on February 14, 2009


It's probably just safer to grow Quorn in the damn basement and eat that.
Quorn's makers like to say "It's just like mushrooms!"

In fact, the production of Quorn required an entirely new industrial apparatus, using a huge bubbler to mix the vats of fungus rather than the rotors used in most microculture vats, in order to allow it to grow long and stringy. (Long strings of fungus are required to simulate muscle fiber in the finished product.)
Also, It's not even in the phylum of fungi that produces mushrooms.
...
But damn if the Quorn nuggets don't taste like the real thing.
posted by agentofselection at 4:59 PM on February 14, 2009


This makes me think of all those Western tourists who go to foreign countries and egg each other on (so to speak) to eat live insects. Or wince at the thought of people in other countries eating locusts. Yep, it's not just 'those people' eating insects. Besides, the protein's probably good for you!
posted by librarylis at 6:41 PM on February 14, 2009


A story.

I was in Cub Scouts for a few years and moved on to Boy Scouts for about a year and a half. On one Boy Scout camping trip us younger ones were, as always, responsible for the menial labor. A few of us were trying and failing to effectively scrub clean a cast iron skillet from breakfast. We had nothing more to scrub it with than sponges and paper towels, not Being Prepared. One of the non-jackass older guys came over, bent down, and picked up some dirt from the ground. He threw it in the pan, scrubbed it around with a paper towel, and it provided the needed abrasion. Everything then washed out of the skillet easily and it was quite properly clean.

I gained minor enlightenment.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:59 PM on February 14, 2009


Ah, the luxury of plenty.
posted by moonbiter at 1:40 AM on February 15, 2009


Rats eat rat shit so it can't be that bad. In fact rats have to eat rat shit or they will die. So it is in fact a bit good (at least for them). Humans also have to obtain gut bacteria via the ingestion of human fecal matter. Fortunately kids do this with their moms somehow.

Life is complex and weird.
posted by srboisvert at 8:33 AM on February 15, 2009


I find it depressing that some people automatically assume that the existence of these regulations must mean that non-regulated foods must have less crap in them

I find it depressing that even with the minimal regulations that the FDA does have in place, the government doesn't have enough money to actually enforce the regulations, leaving inspections and oversight to the local agencies or (most depressingly) the food companies themselves.

The problem isn't that food is allowed to have 2 micrograms of rat feces per gram or whatever. The problem is that regulatory agencies defer entirely to the food industry.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:08 AM on February 15, 2009


What I find amusing is that we refer to this as processed food.
posted by Samizdata at 1:13 PM on February 15, 2009


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