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How Bad Could It Possibly Be

March 13, 2013

Mrs. Fussy suggested that yesterday’s post might have suffered a bit from the influence of my cold medicine. So today I’m going to try and write as little as possible. My plan had been to present three shocking but true food news stories from around the world without any comment.

But when’s the last time I was able to let something go without comment?

World’s “Best Restaurant” Sickens 67 Customers in One Week
Originally posted on Food Safety News

So 67 customers is a lot of the little restaurant that could Noma in Denmark. I’ve never been, but DocSconz has. FSN reports the place has just 12 seats and in the week where its customers got sick only 78 patrons passed through the restaurant.

That’s some gnarly odds.

While I haven’t read the report from Denmark’s food safety agency, the article above seems to insinuate that the problem stemmed from this fancy fancy place not having hot water for employees to wash their hands.

Now I guess when my mom gives me the stinkeye for seeking out some dirty divey ethnic spots in seedy neighborhoods on the wrong side of the tracks in Providence, I can always tell her this story. Even the fanciest restaurants can make you sick. Sometimes you have to live life, leave your fears behind you, and see what happens.

[Edit: Thanks to docsconz for his comment below. I felt at the time there must be another side to this story, because on some level it didn’t make a lot of sense. It turns out FSN had a lot of facts wrong. That’s unfortunate. Here’s the link docsconz posted below in a much more convenient location]

Tesco Finds Horse Meat in Frozen Meatloaf, Pulls Product
Found on HuffPo from Reuters

Blah, blah, blah. More horse meat in the ground beef. Yawn. But wait.

Put aside the horse part and think about this for a second. We found out about a foreign substance in Europe’s beef back in January. Now it’s March. Sure, horse meat is edible. It tastes like beef.

But what this continues to expose is just how global, complicated, and insecure our food system has become. Consumers are livid about this. Sure, their ire is mostly aimed at the fact they are unknowingly being fed something culturally considered to be a pet. Still, it’s costing untold fortunes and massive waste as this food is being pulled from shelves and most likely destroyed.

What if, instead of substituting cheaper horse in the beef supply to make a little more money, some troublemaker decided to wreak havoc by mixing in something a bit more toxic. You know, that still looked like ground meat. Like, ground up bits of cow and spinal cords from BSE infected cows.

If this case with the horses can serve as an example, even if we knew such a thing was lurking in the food supply, it could still be turning up months later in Britain’s largest grocer.

That’s not good.

No More Delays: Get Antibiotics Out of Organics
Originally posted on

Uh oh. What?!?! If you were like me, you probably thought that all the organic food you were buying was free of antibiotics. Well, the good news is that for most organic food you would be right.

The bad news is that you would be wrong when it comes to apples. And pears.

Apples?!?! Pears?!?! What the hell are antibiotics doing in organic fruit? Apples don’t get sick. They don’t. And for what it’s worth the antibiotics aren’t in the pears, they are sprayed directly on the fruit to help stop certain kinds of bacterial blight.

You want to know the worst part? This is all totally okay with the National Organic Standards Board. Don’t want to believe some radical hippy website? Hear the same thing in more measured tones from Washington State University.


Maybe it’s the prolonged head cold affecting my outlook on life, the landscape of food, and the direction that industrial agriculture is headed (don’t forget about the move to add aspartame to milk, the shenanigans in the ice cream cooler at the supermarket, or what passes for bread these days).

But things are pretty bad out there. I’m a little too sick to make it out to the No Farms No Food rally today in Albany today. But if you are downtown today and happen to read this, maybe you’ll be encouraged to lend your voice to at least a little positive action in a better direction.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2013 12:35 pm

    Rumor has it that Les Creation De Narisawa is replacing Noma as #1 in the new poll. Maybe they will serve up fugu to replace the e.coli?

  2. docsconz permalink
    March 13, 2013 10:01 pm

    For a much more accurate accounting of what happened at noma then the FSN article linked to above, please read Lisa Abend’s excellent article in Time Magazine. Lisa knows her stuff and unlike the article mentioned, has her facts straight.

    The unfortunate truth is that no place today is immune from this type of problem. However, when it happens at a restaurant with an esteemed reputation like noma, people pay attention and understandably so. I, for one, would not hesitate to return.

  3. March 14, 2013 8:04 am

    I am surprised this first occurred in Denmark and not the US. Seriously. Presenteeism in the service industry in this country is AWFUL. People who are really really sick go to work because they don’t have sick leave, or even if they do when they try to call in they are told they have to come into work for this reason or that. That coupled with a lack of comprehensive medical benefits at places like this, I am really astounded this happened in a place like Denmark, which has socialized medicine and is overall more progressive on sick leave.

    Take note, US businesses: when your employees are sick, make them go home.

  4. March 14, 2013 8:06 am

    Also, this astounded me:
    “The facts are these: during the week of Feb. 12–16, 63 of the 435 people who dined at Noma became ill. First word of the problem came on the night of Feb. 14, when a Danish couple e-mailed the restaurant to inform them that they had become sick after eating there. The e-mail was opened by an office staff member the following morning, but because she did not speak Danish, she forwarded the message to a floor manager, who in turn did not read it until returning on Feb. 18 from his day off.”

    How? HOOOOW? Let me guess: she’s an arrogant American who moved to a country where she didn’t bother to learn the language? Good grief, we’re the first ones to complain when immigrants don’t speak English to our lofty standards.

  5. docsconz permalink
    March 14, 2013 9:24 am

    Irisira, this happens all over the world all the time, including the United States. The only reason you heard about this one was because of the lofty reputation of the restaurant. People like to point out failures, especially of those at the top.

    As for your guess, perhaps, though noma, given its stature, takes stagieres from all over the world. Its not like Danish is commonly spoken outside of Denmark and even in Denmark, English is widely and commonly spoken as a second language. Of course, this doesn’t absolve the situation, but it just goes to show that despite the most rigorous of standards, bad things can still (and will) occur.

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