Saturday, 4 September 2010

Dairy diary

I see eggs that have been contaminated with salmonella are back in the news this week. Reading about various food scares always sets me wondering how folks coped in years gone by before the introduction of refrigeration and 'best before' and 'use by' dates. Did people build up an immunity to harmful bugs or were the bugs not there in the first place?

When I was a child I used to regularly visit my aunty's farm. She didn't own a refrigerator but used her cool dairy to store jugs of milk (straight from the cow) and farmyard fresh eggs. Everyone in the village bought their milk and eggs from aunty's farm and no one became ill as a result.

My grandma's milk and eggs also came from aunty's farm and were stored in grandma's cool pantry. The milk jug was topped with a beaded net cover (to keep flies out) and the eggs were displayed in this pretty china egg holder.

My childhood home was several miles away from aunty's farm and so, like most other families, we had fresh milk delivered to our door each day in pint bottles. The milkman (or dairyman as he was often called) also brought our eggs. Mum stored these in this wooden stand which dad made for her. I never remember tales of contaminated eggs and milk in those days.

Today my milk and eggs come from the local supermarket. The labels on the containers are covered with dates, storage recommendations, nutritional information, and instructions on how to dispose of the empty containers.

We are bombarded with food hygene information but for all the strict rules and regulations that govern food production, and the widespread use of refrigeration, we still hear of severe illnesses caused by food contamination. Where have we gone wrong?