Salmonella Tomatoes: An Argument For View Source and Food Miles

Tomatoes -- Are They Poison?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mike Licht,

You may not be familiar with the term food miles. Wikipedia describes it thus:

“The point was to highlight the hidden ecological, social and economic consequences of food production to consumers in a simple way, one which had objective reality but also connotations.”

Many people are very skeptical about the “hidden costs of transport” arguments against food that has been shipped thousands of miles. But public health offers another, very clear reason to more deeply consider the provenance of the food we eat. The current salmonella scare in the US is pretty chilling.

As things currently stand in food supply chains we usually have little or no idea of where our food came from. There are very few of us are that are like my friend Chris Dalby, who only buys food from farm shops, but that’s surely going to change as more and more products turn out to be contaminated. Increasingly we’re going to want to be able to “view source” for the food we eat. Food miles encourages us to do just that.

Tim O’Reilly said:

HTML, the language of web pages, opened participation to ordinary users, not just software developers. The “View Source” menu item migrated from Tim Berners-Lee’s original browser, to Mosaic, and then on to Netscape Navigator and even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Though no one thinks of HTML as an open source technology, its openness was absolutely key to the explosive spread of the web. Barriers to entry for “amateurs” were low, because anyone could look “over the shoulder” of anyone else producing a web page. Dynamic content created with interpreted languages continued the trend toward transparency.

Just like the rise of the web we’re going to need new standards, new linking and tagging mechanisms, and new ways of thinking if we’re to going to be able to trust modern food networks as they become increasingly complex.