DEATH AT THE SUPERMARKET
Surviving your weekly trip to the grocery store
(It’s not a murder mystery, although quite a killer)
Larry ‘The Fish Guy’ Caplin
Copyright ©2015, by the author
The names of individuals and businesses have all been changed, to protect both the innocent and the guilty. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, without written permission from the author, except for brief quotations.
Hello. The author’s name is “Larry the Fish Guy,” a minor character from two of Lee Capp’s murder mysteries. The first is called TIME ENOUGH TO DIE: The Watchmaker – Book One, and the second is ELLIOTT BAY: The Watchmaker – Book Two. The books are fictional, although the character—Larry, is real enough. And yes, he really is a fish-guy. As in a guy who has been in the meat and seafood business for quite a long time now. As protagonist Johnny O’Brien says in book one—“Larry’s a sarcastic SOB . . . but he knows things.” He does indeed. And some of those things could well save your life, or the life of someone you love.
And that’s what this book is all about.
Larry has been around awhile, and in more professions than just seafood too. Now sixty-six years old, Larry can claim over eight years working in a major chain grocery store. Right down there in the trenches—right at the retail level. The retail lever is where, to use an automotive metaphor, the “rubber meets the road,” so to speak. It’s where the product is delivered to the customer. It’s the last stop before it appears on someone’s dinner table. And, it is exactly where the very last point is, on the food safety highway (again to use the automotive metaphor) to maintain safety and quality. It’s the very last place, and the very last chance, to stop someone from getting real sick from bad food—or much, much worse.
Larry’s seen the worst that can happen—up close and personal—over and over again, in both the health care field and mortuary service. In health care, it was the sick and the dying. At the funeral home, it was those that didn’t make it. As Larry as said (about a million times) “I’ve sat with the dying, and lowered the dead into the ground enough times, to not care to do it ever again.”
The risks are real—and they are substantial.
Annual number of food related illnesses in the US—76 million.
Annual number of food related hospitalizations in the US—325,000
Annual number of food related deaths in the US—5,000
Number of annual deaths due to Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma—1,800
Number of annual deaths due to unknown agents—3,200
The foods with the highest risk of food poisoning (in order) are: Meat/Beef, Poultry/Chicken/Turkey, Dairy Products, Eggs, Salami/Hams, Seafood, Cooked Rice and Pasta, and assorted deli items such as Salads, Coleslaw, Pasta Salad, Rice Salad, Fruit Salads, and so forth. (Stats from STATISTIC BRAIN)
Ten thousand deaths, and that many food poisoning related episodes may not seem like a lot in a nation of well over three-hundred million—but it is if you happen to be one of them—or worse yet, someone you love. As the late great military guru Jeff Cooper once noted, “Statistics mean nothing to a person caught in exceptional circumstances.”
The food poisoning doesn’t have to result in death either to have a profound impact on a person’s life. Sometimes the effects will spoil your whole afternoon. Sometimes a lot longer than that. My own brother was a victim of restaurant food poisoning when he was in his thirties. He finally passed (of natural causes) just short of his seventy-second birthday. Through all those long years in between, he simply couldn’t enjoy the highly spiced fare of his youth. He always complained that the food poisoning was the reason. After that long-ago bout (probably salmonella) he said, his stomach was just “ruined” for anything but mild food.
Sure, the truth of the matter is that you can contract food poisoning in places other than the grocery store. Restaurants are a really good place to get sick. And a whole lot more than just a few pathogens are home-grown right in those great-big petri dishes we call our refrigerators. But the supermarket will probably always be numero uno when it comes to really, really great places to get really, really ill. There are a lot of reasons for this, which we will explore. Top of the list—profits over people.
But I get ahead of myself.
I’d like to invite you to come along with Larry the Fish Guy on a voyage of discovery—to the local grocery store. To see the innards. To see how it really works. To see the good, the bad, the exceedingly bad, and the just plain low-down and dirty ugly. To find out what’s safe to eat, and what can put you away for a day—or forever. And most importantly, how to tell the difference.
We’ll learn about retail display cases. Which ones preserve the food. And which ones rot it. We’ll learn what is almost a completely different language—called “supermarket speak.” We’ll find out about two words that can kill you. And how one of those words can be used to lie right to your face, and do so (incredibly) completely legally.
Best of all, by the time this little book is over, you will know how to shop for the foods you love—safely. Larry will tell you the ten commandments of food safety shopping. No, they won’t be carved in stone tablets, but hopefully etched into our minds forever.
And he will impart this information in an entertaining way.
Larry’s a really funny guy—in an offbeat kind of a way. He tells good funny stories. And he’s got about a million. You’re going to hear a few of them. You’ll hear about “Killing grandma and the rat-boy” (it’s a personal favorite) and “The homeless sampler,” just to name two. Nothing wrong with having a good laugh. But when it comes to food safety, Larry’s about as serious as a five-alarm dynamite-factory fire. As Johnny O’Brien frequently says—he’s a sarcastic SOB. But he knows things. And indeed—some of those things really can save your life.
Let’s take a walk down the supermarket aisle—and find out just what they are.
Could be the field-trip of a lifetime, with the emphasis on the word “life.”
Follow me. I see the meat wall up ahead . . .
Dumb joke of the day:
What do you get from pampered cows?
Answer: Spoiled Milk.