Wednesday, 13 March 2013

UAE Local Produce Is "Toxic" - Gulf News

Butterfly on mint
(Photo credit: Masako 川o'-')♪)
I'll admit it, I'm confused.

For years now, Gulf News has gone on about how wonderful and safe local produce is. So much assurance has been offered, the cynic might even be inclined to wonder where, given all this smoke, the fire is...

For instance this piece linked right here is pretty typical of the very many examples of the genre, "Locally produced vegetables guarantee against food risks like E. coli".
The deadly E. coli outbreak that rocked world food markets once again confirms the importance and urgency of turning to local vegetables and fruits for consumption, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), said in a statement.
Well, that's alright then. I've no need to worry. If I might be inclined to have the odd wobble, worrying for instance if the unrestricted use of pesticides in local farming might be harmful, or perhaps the impact of the oil and diesel leaking out from those filthy, weeping pumps they use to extract the water from those fast-depleting aquifers, I just need to keep reading GN for stuff like this to keep me on the straight and narrow. Yes, "Nothing beats fresh taste of local produce"
Row upon row of succulent dates greet the eye while a few steps away fresh potatoes, onions and lettuce varieties are displayed for sale. For the erstwhile customer, finding the freshest produce has become even easier at the Al Mina Fruit and Vegetable Market ever since Abu Dhabi Municipality began implementing a range of measures to promote local produce.
I will not presume to cavil at the misuse of the word 'erstwhile', unless the customer in question had, indeed, passed away or otherwise become a customer no more. Safe to say, the assurances regarding locally grown produce stretch back over the years, this one from 2001 for instance.

Whatever, we are assured that "E. coli poses no threat to consumers in the UAE" and we know we can trust our media to properly filter and investigate any empty statements or baseless claims, whether they come from business or government. That's what the media is for, right?

So it was slightly disconcerting to read in yesterday's edition of The Newspaper That Seeks Only Truth that local salad greens are 'toxic'. Their word, not mine. The piece, linked here for your convenience, quotes academics whose research over the past five years (in the face of all those assurances) found 100% of samples of locally grown girgir (that's rocket to you an' me) contaminated by E. coli and salmonella. The bacterial infection is embedded in leaves and cannot be washed out, according to Dr Dennis Russell of the American University of Sharjah.

Dr Russell on leaves. Love it.

The good doktor points to unsanitary farming practices such as using raw manure as fertiliser and the bacterial contamination of the water supply (43% of wells here were found to be contaminated GN tells us in another story).

Gulf News' advice is "Do not eat jareer and other vegetables grown or stored with it in stores". The produce continues to be sold by supermarkets here.

So is it toxic, or not? For what it's worth, I've always gone on the assumption that it is and tend to avoid it at every opportunity or wash it to death. Blame all that reassurance...
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