Friday, April 18, 2008


A while back, I wrote about the poor soul who'd found a mouse in a can of green beans, both here and over on Opinionated Marketers.

That would surely have put me off canned green beans, but I'm pretty much off them anyway, since they actually don't bear any resemblance in consistency or taste to real green beans - or even the frozen variety.

We have not, apparently, heard the end of the rat-in-the-green-bean story, as I learned when I received an e-mail from someone who had purchased green beans gbrat3and found there was some rodentish thing of another in their midst. The e-mailer was kind enough to send me a few pictures, one of which I'll share with you here.

As it turns out, my correspondent purchased the green beans from Wal-Mart. He/she - I'm not sure whether this was a man or a woman - was planning on freezing the remains of this particular day's meal, and seeing what Wally had to say about it.

I'm quite certain that there's a long association of food stuff with vermin (mice, rats, insects...). When you think about it, all those harvesting machines are no doubt picking up a few critters along the way. And grain silos? Do we think they'd attract rats? Nah!

Before he became an economist, my husband-the-chemistry-major worked for the Food and Drug Administration. This was eons ago, but he has stories about the allowable amount of "fecal matter" and insect parts in food stuffs. (Less than you'd notice but more than you'd think.)

And who hasn't found a worm in their apple? A corn borer in an ear of corn they're shucking? Some creepy crawly in their lettuce?

One time at the grocery store, when I was filling a bag with green beans (or all things), I found the desiccated carcass of some sort of lizard. (At first I thought it was a moldy green bean. But, no.)

Still, insects are one thing, things with fur and paws are quite another.

It's interesting that Wal-Mart was where both last fall's and this spring's green beans avec rat came from.

Makes me wonder how much of the race-to-the-bottom pricing they demand from their vendors cuts into quality.

Nowadays, it seems a lot more important to have our larders bursting with "affordable" cans of green beans than it does to think about whether there's a reason that everything's so darned affordable. (Maybe the place that produced them decided it was too costly to get an exterminator. Maybe they let their quality inspectors go in a cost-cutting effort. Maybe their only option was going out of business.)

And so we continue to stuff the closets of our shoddily built (but LARGE) homes with shoddily manufactured clothing and shoes. We make sure our garages are bulging with fall-apart appliances that it makes no sense to repair because we'd want the more innovative version, anyway - the electronic toothbrush with the gum massager, the boom-box that works with our iPods. We try to do our part in keeping the economy in forward motion - hey, we all can't run hedge funds! - by buying cheap crap or expensive crap - specialty knives good only for slicing strawberries, heat wraps that work on wrists-only, platters that say "The Glorious Fourth" on them.

Buying crap seems to be the patriotic thing to do, so we feel unpatriotic when the recession hits and we start feeling we have to think twice before we buy that special sauce pan designed for cooking green beans - the one with the add-on strainer for filtering rodents out.

Fifty years ago, I'm sure there were plenty of rodent body parts in green beans. Fifty years ago, our mothers would have tossed the beans out, scalded the sauce pan, and let us eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. She would have complained to the grocer, and gotten her 15 cents back for the bad beans. Maybe written a letter to the manufacturer and gotten a free case of green beans. (Great!)

Which is really not all that different than how folks respond now - although these days, we're all apt to see if we can throw a little law suit in there. Not to mention take pictures and post them on the Internet.

But long before the Internet made it possible for me to learn all about this latest instance of rodent-laden green bean, bad stuff has happened to food stuff. The fact of the matter is that there have been plenty of yucky things in prepared foods for as long as there have been prepared foods.

But I can't help but think that as Wal-Mart pushes more and more small companies into supplying more for less, we'll see an increasing decline in quality. And more furry things with paws a serving spoon away from the dinner table.


1 comment:

katrog said...

Recently I was washing some organic cilantro from Whole Foods. I thought there were stones in among the leaves. Nope--it was a couple of snails. Organic indeed! :)