CRETE–I must admit I have been a bit neglectful in my weekly duties of getting my Publisher’s Platform in on time.  This week I actually did have time to think about doing it between visits to a former Leper Colony (lawyers still welcome), very old Cretan churches and even older Minoan ruins.  The pace here on Crete is much slower (except for driving) than my usual, but I am learning to adjust.  Getting sleep and eating something other than airplane food does a wonder for your attitude.  I may actually be enjoying myself, and being tolerated by my wife and three daughters.

In addition to the pace of life here, there are several other changes that certainly would seem odd to the average American.  The home (a.k.a. Villa) that we are staying at in Elounda has a refrigerator the size that I had in my dorm room in college.  Curious, I asked about it.  Nicely, the owner/caretaker said, “we buy fresh food every day, why would we need a large one?”  Most of the fruits and vegetables are local and there seems to be about a 40/60 relationship between processed food and fresh in the local grocery store.  My guess is that, even in upscale grocery stores in the U.S., processed food would command a much larger percentage of the shelf space.

Frankly, other than emails from the office–and reading Food Safety News–I have not really thought much about food safety in the last week.  To be sure, my bet is that Crete–especially in the tourist centers–might well have its fair share of food poisoning incidents.  However, it is easy to get lulled into a “fresh and local” safe food belief–especially, when the food tastes so good.  Perhaps, food is not safer here in Crete, but it certainly feels like it, and after a while you believe it.

My guess is that the folks in Colorado that purchased (goat shared) raw milk from Billy Goat Dairy felt the same way about the raw milk that has now sickened 30–two with hemolytic uremic syndrome–with a combination of Campylobacter and E. coli O157:H7.  They clearly “knew their farmer.”  And, then there is the recall of Bison Burgers contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 from Colorado that has sickened several in three states.  If asked, I think without question those consumers thought they were buying and consuming products that they believed were more healthful and safer than that mass-produced food depicted in “Food, Inc.”

The whole “local food is better and safer” movement is based upon a belief that it is true–whether it is or not.  It is true that most (vast majority) of the food poisoning cases that I have been involved with in the last 17 years have stemmed from mass-produced, far-transported products.  However, there is the clear possibility that local foods poison people, but perhaps fewer at a time so it is difficult to notice.  I am not sure we have the data either way to make the argument or shake a belief.

The belief that “local food is better and safer” does create both an opportunity and a responsibility for the local producer.  The opportunity is the built in belief that the customer has in the product that mass-produced and highly processed foods can never match.  The responsibility is that the local producer has much to live up to.

Well, its dinner time as I reach for the local olives and olive oil, and cross my fingers.