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March 2021 – Hippocrates, Mom and the Killer Tomatoes

Hippocrates, Mom and the Killer Tomatoes

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates

Have some more. – My mother

While those two statements seem incongruous, Hippocrates and my mother, Rose, had a few things in common. They believed food could heal us and even comfort us, and that the act of breaking bread with others was a sacred event. I can’t speak for Hippocrates, but I know my mother never once concerned herself with the possibility of there being contaminants in the food she fed her children. She would occasionally share the cautionary tale of how Mrs. Pitch, her neighbor in East Orange, New Jersey wound up killing her husband. According to my mother, Mr. Pitch died of botulism due to eating an improperly sealed can of Mrs. Pitch’s garden tomatoes. I can neither confirm nor deny her claim. As a result of Mr. Pitch’s unfortunate death, my mother was scrupulous with her canning efforts and always double checked the seal before tossing tomatoes into her homemade gravy. But that was the extent of her food safety concerns.

When my children were younger, I frequently had our private well water tested as I worried about the potential for bacterium to infiltrate our water source, and I consoled myself with the thought that by feeding Olivia and Clark mostly organic foods and milk, I was protecting them from unknown ill health effects. I worried way more about concussions and broken bones.

But just today, the headlines are filled with headlines that would concern any parent. Toxic metals in baby foodArsenic in ricePFAS in food packagingLead and copper in drinking water. Upon further reading, parents will be terrified to learn than any of these “ingredients” at certain doses can cause long-term physical harm. While many news stories endeavor to take advantage of earnest parents, I can vouch for many food and beverage processors who are taking every measure to assure consumers they don’t have to be concerned about the safety of their products. My firm’s Environmental Chemistry Team has supported a number of food and beverage processors in evaluating their water supplies and their raw materials for contaminants such as those mentioned. 

Since its start, Environmental Standards Inc. and our affiliate, Vitale Scientific Associates have been engaged by food and beverage companies and their counsel to assist them in evaluating the presence of contaminants in their raw materials and finished products.  We begin and end each project with sound, defensible science and experienced analytical chemistry professionals.  That gives me great confidence.  I hope it does the same for you.  Stay tuned for future technical articles here.


Ann Marie Gathright

Account Executive