It Isn’t the Vegetables….

Have you ever noticed a peculiar smell when opening a can of vegetables or fruit? (And yes, some of us still buy and eat canned food, if only for lack of a freezer!)

I have, and it puzzled me for a long time. Then, on a lazy winter day, I had one of those “ah-hah” moments and realized it isn’t the vegetables, it’s the water used in canning them!

The revelation came to me when opening a can of Dole pineapple. It smelled, inexplicably, like fish.

food-can“Fish,” I asked myself. “In pineapple?” And so, because I had a day off (not counting cleaning, laundry and all the other chores we freelancers tend to schedule last, if at all), I went to the grocery store and bought several more cans of pineapple under brand names other than Dole, as well as one more Dole-branded sample to test my hypothesis.

The second Dole sample again smelled like fish. It also tasted somewhat like fish, which meant I wouldn’t feed it to anyone but my grandson, who eats everything with all the relish and lack of discernment of a garbage disposal.

The other two cans? Well, they didn’t smell like fish but they also didn’t smell exactly like pineapple. In fact, they smelled like my backyard swamp during a particularly rainy summer. Which is why I decided to share with all of you another food pitfall, in a list that is now literally as long as my arm.

I doubt if the pineapple I sampled is bad for a person; my grandson seemed to experience no adverse affects. Nonetheless, those of us who are in charge of purchasing food now need to ask not only how our canned food was raised, but where, and what water resources were used in processing.

It would seriously annoy me – and probably you as well – to discover that Pepsi, Coke and Mountain Dew use fresh water to make their flame-retardant or aspartame-laden sodas while food manufacturers used less-than-pure water to can their fruits, vegetables and even meats. Moreover, this is water bought for pennies on the dollar from impoverished, desperate native populations around the developing world.

Having a fairly sensitive stomach, and a very active imagination, I hesitate to speculate on these canned-goods water sources, beyond the idea of a tropical swamp full of (dead and half-dead?) fish, or irrigation runoff from a California lettuce or avocado crop – which migrant workers use for lack of Port-a-Potties within walking distance, given the time overseers allow for this type of necessity – this latter based on my own observation in fields south and east of Monterey.

The fact that the pineapple smelled like fish makes me wonder if Dole processing supervisors in places like Thailand, the Philippines and Brazil are even aware of the problem.

Perhaps they are and, like Chinese supervisors, are willing to sacrifice quality for quantity – or, in fact, ignore quality entirely because they are the indigenous poor and the ultimate consumers are those supremely wealthy, rude and ugly Americans. So why not spit in the stew, or use the water from a brackish pond?

If true, even in part, it means another potential source of sickness and disease to Americans, whose food czar, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, seems to have retired during the previous century and now only operates to terrorize Amish dairies and California almond growers.

What can we do about it? We can demand the kind of clean and sustainably-sourced food that comes out of Europe. If enough of us join the protest, we may be able to return the FDA to its former position as watchdog of all that Americans consume, including those ubiquitous and stomach-churning Vienna canned sausages.

Bon appetit!

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