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Commentary :: DNC
Is FNB a health hazard?
26 Jul 2004
Modified: 11:50:23 PM
Does anyone else get food sickness from eating Food Not Bombs food? It's not the first time this has happened to me.
When I mentioned that I wasn't feeling well to a friend, she chastised me for ever eating food from FNB. 'Just look at how dirty their pants are. How often do they wash their hands? Pick their noses?'

I totally appreciate what FNB aims to do. Giving people food when they're hungry and working is critical. FNBers are consistently the nicest most generous people anywhere you go, especially in stressful convergence situations. But compared to the care medics take to keep things clean and sanitary, food providers have a way to go.

If other people have had similar experiences, please post them here. It is very important that we have sustainable and healthy ways to stay nourished as we fight for justice. If you're an FNBer reading this, please take it in the spirit of solidarity. Thank you for all the work you do.

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Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
umm, nobody will ever forget the 2000 convention where 100's of people got sick. Although to be fair it could have just been a bad flu going around the convergence center instead of fnb. Although my symptoms were definately like food poisoning. And that 100's number is not an overexaggeration.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
I understand you're trying to provide some critique, but putting a post onto Indymedia is not a good forum for critique. And I think you need to know what you're talking about. Also not lump together all Food Not Bombs cooking efforts together. As far as hand washing goes, in the kitchen that is currently cooking food for all the people protesting the DNC we have a hand washing station that we are constantly using both in the kitchen and at serving areas. We have standard kitchen procedures for dealing with dishes with a wash and two rinses. We clean vegetables with water. We wash our tables and sweep the ground.
I don't know if you've ever been in a restaurant kitchen before. I've worked in many of them. Most of them are no cleaner than the current kitchen we are operating out of, and some have been a hell of a lot dirtier.
It's pretty disappointing to spend the past twelve hours cooking food for people, transporting it all over this city, dealing with cops and state harassment and then to come check out Indymedia and see posts like this. Your post is not news, and if you are concerned about the cleanliness of food preparation why don't you come down to the kitchen at 181 Amory and clean the dishes, sweep the floor, get harassed by cops and stand over hot stoves for the next 3 days with us. We would love to talk about your issues while working together. Posts like this do not help the movement, but instead encourage cops and food inspectors to harass us further.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
If FNB's cooks had routine bad food handling practices, so many kids would get sick so often that word would soon get around. You are just as likely to have problems at ANY resturant from McD's all the way to upper class outlets!

If you get sick from bad food, you wil REALLY know it. Food poisoning outbreaks traced to restaurants usually put a lot of people in the hospital, and sometimes even kill people.

If hundreds got sick in 2000 and JUST ONE OF THEM did not eat FNB, that means FNB food wasn't the culprit. "Fluish" symptoms suggest that sort of illness(but not actual Flu, which is not around this time of year), which can easily race through tightly packed housing, crowded convergence centers-and higly stressed activists. "Stomach flus" which are not flus at all, are similarily so contagious the only defense is to ensure nobody prepares food while sick with it-and it would still take just one person with it to contaminate bathroom fixtures, etc so as to make everyone else sick even if it never touched the food.

Indeed, illness is an occupational hazard of what we do, and food is the least of the problems. Still, tis better to get a cold at the Convergence center than to die of some easily treated illness because nobody mobilized and the price of some cheap to make and effective drug spiralled out of reach.
Since I've never heard of a death from FNB food and HAVE heard of deaths and protracted hospitalization from food poisoning elsewhere, I conclude that FNB kids may look grungy but understand handwashing for food handling, proper cooking and storage temps, etc.

In addition, if FNB is using mostly vegan food, the worst risks are eliminated. Deathly illness is most common from things like contaminated meat or egg products. Those STILL won't get you IF cooked hot enough and not contaminated with juice from uncooked meat(except for Mad Cow).

In DC where I am from, FNB does not serve meat. As for safety of food, we could easily establish our own food inspection service which would insect community kitchens and rate them on a scale fro cleanliness, safe food handling, and handwashing practices by comparison to restaurants.

Lastly, any food you are served still in its original package cannot be contaminated by the food handler. The package still can be, but mostly with direct person-to person style illnesses.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
hey cook- just a question-
you're cooking at 181 amory? last time i was by that place it was abandoned or something. that's cool that it's being used now!
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
Everybody should just use universal health precautions--wash hands often, use gloves to treat another person with any kind of cut, and don't share your water! get your own water bottle and stick to it. Remember the meningitis scare last November... no one wants to come home from a protest with those worries again.
solidarity, take care, and best of luck to everyone there.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
yeah, i cooked and prepped and worked for the last 48 hours with only a few hours of sleep and to hear something like this with out the person posting even investigating on ones own !!AT ALL!! just makes me feel pretty sick too!

like it has been said, you want to see what its like down in the kitchen... come down and do some work!

you are more likely to get sick from biting your finger nails durring the day than from this kitchen!

up the cooks!
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
I used to get the shits from Food Not Bombs, but never any worse than cheap fast food. I think that it is all the heavy use of curry and cooking oil. I don't know of anyone who has ever gotten full on sick before.

Before you come down and form too heavy of an opinion of Food Not Bombs, I can assure you that there is nothing they could do much worse than what goes down in 99% of commercial kitchens.

I've worked in a number of yuppie restaurants over the years, and can honestly say that even most "professional" kitchens are absolutely disgusting and unsanitary.

Hate to break it to you, but NO ONE washes their hands in the food industry, and there is some nasty shit that goes down in most kitchens. Also, depending on how badly the workers are paid and treated (usually bad), most people will go out of their way to fuck with the food... sweat in it, spit in it, probably worse. It is not uncommon to scrape nasty old food off of plates into the garbage disposal, take out some trash, use the toilet, and then go ahead and serve up some dinners without even the consideration of washing up crossing your mind.

What do we care if some yuppie gets sick, right?

Ha, ha... bon appetite!
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
Forgot to mention that big advantage of Food Not Bombs is that they care about the people they serve, and see their actions as building towards social change... I am willing to bet they put alot more care into food prep than the average exploited, pissed off worker who is cooking for people they absolutely despise.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
I used to get the shits from Food Not Bombs, but never any worse than cheap fast food. I think that it is all the heavy use of curry and cooking oil. I don't know of anyone who has ever gotten full on sick before.

Before you come down and form too heavy of an opinion of Food Not Bombs, I can assure you that there is nothing they could do much worse than what goes down in 99% of commercial kitchens.

I've worked in a number of yuppie restaurants over the years, and can honestly say that even most "professional" kitchens are absolutely disgusting and unsanitary.

Hate to break it to you, but NO ONE washes their hands in the food industry, and there is some nasty shit that goes down in most kitchens. Also, depending on how badly the workers are paid and treated (usually bad), most people will go out of their way to fuck with the food... sweat in it, spit in it, probably worse. It is not uncommon to scrape nasty old food off of plates into the garbage disposal, take out some trash, use the toilet, and then go ahead and serve up some dinners without even the consideration of washing up crossing your mind.

What do we care if some yuppie gets sick, right?

Ha, ha... bon appetite!
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
hiya-
i used to volunteer with FNB in boston a while ago, and I've just started again this year-- (though i don't *Represent the organization* you understand, this is just my personal opinion. . . .)

yah, i've definitely seen some not-it stuff in hygene land. we are, after all, collecting food that would otherwise have been thrown away by groceries, bakeries, farmers markets, and the like. thats kind of the point isn't it? "look we're spending all this money on bombs and war and nukes, when while at the same time throwing away enough food thats perfectly good to feed lots and lots and LOTS of people with in a world where lots and lots and lots fo poeple are starving. . . ."-- but I've been eatin it for years, though, and i've never, ever gotten sick off of it- its pretty hard to get sick from vegetables, rice, and beans. really it is. usualy i feel *better* if i eat alot fo food not bobms food, cause its pretty much good for you. . . . .and everything *i've* ever cooked, well, i'll eat it and eat it with some god damned gusto- i make sure, cause i wouldn't serve it if i couldnt' do that, now would i?.

when i see bad food handling, i try to change it. alot of times- just outa my own experience, you understand- food not bombs is really hyper "understaffed"(whats the NOT capitalist term for "understaffed"?)-- not enough people to really get enough food together to be picky about it, not enough kitchen space, not enough people who are willing to clean up. . . . .lots o' kids wear cool patches that say "food not bombs", talk about "food not bombs"-- but when i ask them when and how they ACT on it, they say they don't, and its just a cool patch.

if you really think its not clean or good or whatever, get invovled with it! free food is something EVERYONE can benefit from. . .. .next time you see a meal come out that didn't think was so well done, and you ATE some of it, maybe you might consider helping out with clean-up or preparation or supplying or *something*-- cause it only exists, its only made, by the lots of US. . . . anyone who care about it like. . . . .

anyway---- if you want to start it up in your community the way you think it ought to be done, then that woudl rock--go to www.foodnotbombs.net and learn more bout how other people have done it if you want-- or just DO. . . . .
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
actually, fnb was requesting that people wash their hands before eating today.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
Medics also eat FNB adn its durn good
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
Food Not Bombs is get !!!!....They helped me lose 20 pounds. The only thing that sucked was that it all came out my ass.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
If you're getting the shits from eating at FNB, maybe it's because your body wasn't too used to eating vegetables. Try eating healthy on a consistent basis and your body will adjust. Also, germs that don't kill us make us stronger. Usually. Up Up Food Not Bombs Down Down antisceptic and/or bad contaminated food. Ya.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
"I don't know if you've ever been in a restaurant kitchen before. I've worked in many of them. Most of them are no cleaner than the current kitchen we are operating out of, and some have been a hell of a lot dirtier."



i pretty much have to second people who said stuff like this. i've worked with boston fnb and in a lot of restaurants. i don't think there's anything to worry about there with the possible exception of produce spoilage or something. most of their food is pretty overcooked anyway though so i wouldn't worry. i ate it for months at a time at certain point in my life and it never hurt me.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
Just to chime in with many of the other posters - i used to work with boston fnb, and have worked in numerous numerous restaurants, and the care and cleanliness that folks took in making the food with fnb was definitely on par, and in several cases significantly better, than the care and cleanliness at various restaurants where i worked. again, there's a noticable quality difference when the folks making the food are passionate about it, care, and aren't resenting the folks who will be eating the food. there also tends to be more awareness about the food and health among many folks working with fnb because they're not automatically assuming that all the food they're working with is fresh and servable (since it's salvaged) - as opposed to what i've seen in many of the restaurants i've worked, where folks will prep and serve any food they have available, even if it's clearly rotten/smelling bad/moldy/etc, because it's just assumed that the food one is given to prep is usable, and there's the attitude anyway that you're not getting paid to judge the quality of the ingredients, just to prepare the meals, and you're not going to take the extra time to decide whether an ingredient is usable or not (and when i once did make that decision and threw out some rotten sausage at a gourmet pizza restaurant where i worked i got chewed out by the boss). finally, having worked with fnb for a couple years i never once got sick off their food - the two times i've gotten food poisoning have both been from eating at "nicer" restaurants. many thanks to the fnb folks for continuing to put in all this hard work.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
I LOVE FNB! Is the kitchen near BnB? 181 Amory?

When are you cooking? I want to help!
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
I don't think hygeine is the biggest problem at FNB, I think it's the condition of some of the food before it's prepared, and some of the conditions its kept in between servings. The number one cause of food poisoning is improper refrigeration. I used to live at the FNB house, and usually you don't even realize you have food poisoning. What Luke was saying is simply wrong. There are many types of food poisoning. I think because FNB doesn't serve meat or any real dairy products they're safe from the worst ones. A lot of the meal, though, cannot get proper refigeration because the serving and travel times are just too great. Food that needs to be refrigerated should not be left out for more than 4 hours. For FNB this is usually just not practical. Perhaps buying cooling trays and lots of ice would help, also heating trays for warm foods, and using a thermometer to regulate temperatures. I think keeping left-overs to serve again is just a bad idea under the conditions I saw. A lot of people don't really know proper food handling, but they do mean well and some food is better than no food, generally. Perhaps things are much better now, I haven't been in Boston for a while.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard? NO!!!
27 Jul 2004
up the cooks!!
absolute solidarity to all who cooked and shared food today at the dnc!! keep it up!!
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
27 Jul 2004
wow...ok...my two slabs of tofu here:

my fave "lower rung of hell" restaurant story is as follows: i worked as a cook in this restaurant with a dishwasher with no hot water (!) and a kinda loopy owner. the owner would get mad if we washed dishes, knives, cutting boards, etc. by hand, and ok, ok, here's the story: We used to keep a large turret of watery canned clam chowder in the fridge. i get an order: 'clam chowder'. mmmm. tasty. eh. same as usual, day in day out, right? well...i put together a bowl, and sat it down next to the microwave to get 'nuked'. the owner came along, and attempted to deliver it to a customer. i pointed out that it hadn't been warmed up yet, and they proceeded to stick their thumb into the bowl of soup, and gasped out with an astonished look on their face..."you're right!" :-)

in contrast, i've cooked with fnb's where the bottomliner insisted that everybody washed their hands. not to mention that hand washing stations at major convergences have become commonplace. and so on.

one last thing: definite second on the 'if you've got food poisoning, you'll know' comment. when i got food poisoning (from a downtown business worker restaurant), it was unmistakable. i didn't feel like a had the flu, i felt like my insides were going to explode. which they, um, kinda did...you get the idea..
Re: Is FNB a health hazard? (Bad Epidemiology)
27 Jul 2004
** Baaad Epidemiology 101 **

Luke said "If hundreds got sick in 2000 and JUST ONE OF THEM did not eat FNB, that means FNB food wasn't the culprit."

This is not true because:

1. There may be an incidence of food poisioning from other sources so someone may have food poisoning from another source while hundreds who ate at FNB got it there (assuming for the purposes of discussion that the FNB food was contaminated).

2. There is always an incidence of false diagnosis. Out of hundreds with "food poisoning" several may actually have something else. If there was food poisioning from FNB and you looked around at many who ate at FNB and many who did not, you would doubtless find some among those who didn't eat at FNB and who complained of being sick with similar symptoms and who actually had something else.

Bottom Line: If in fact a lot of people have symptoms of food poisioning (not all of which by the way has to be severe) who ate at FNB, then there is reason for concern. Constant preventative measures and an open minded attitude about potential problems (as some are doing) is essental. The last thing anyone wants is to play into the hands of authorities who claim only legally blessed food can be given to hungry people and the last thing anyone wants to do is make people sick when you're trying to help them.
Re: Is FNB a health hazard?
28 Jul 2004
actually the story behind the sickness in 2000 at the protests in was that some guy who had some contagious airborne illness volunteered to serve food and didn't tell any of the people that were actually running the kitchen that he was sick. so he served people food and he served them his illness. that's fucked up. and he should have not served food. it was not the fault of folks cooking food then, it was the fault of some stupid person who didn't realize that when you're sick you shouldn't serve food to people.