food poisoning fund-raiser

Please suspend your disbelief for the next minute or so.

At church last week some missionaries from a foreign land thousands of miles from our home made a pitch to the congregation to the effect that they were selling one kilo bricks of a soft, home-made cheese made in their homeland.

The premise sounded like a train wreck, my hope such that the cheese was actually produced locally and the “foreign cheese” aspect was just a scam.

The missionaries were selling the cheese out of an ice chest, but at $13 a kilo, it seemed impossible that they could make any profit had this non-pasteurised product been properly refrigerated every step of the way.

My plan was to give the money and skip the cheese, but the boss insisted otherwise. She sampled the cheese from their “try a piece” tray on the spot and two days later tried another piece from our purchase.

Within 24 hours of each sampling, serious intestinal discomfort and other visceral classic food poisoning symptoms had manifested themselves to her in unpleasant ways.

Given that the water is under the bridge, what is the most ethical thing to do in such a case?

Call the church and tell them that the missionaries should bring locally-woven baskets to sell next time. Warn them that not everyone is so forgiving, and they could face a lawsuit if someone else was poisoned.

And ask your boss why she ate the second helping of cheese???

Sometimes I have had to be the voice of reason in religious settings. For example, our church was considering giving out lightbulbs as a symbol of God’s light in a crowded stadium during a basketball tournament. Umm, broken glass, anyone? Plus, who goes to a basketball tournament expecting to get a lightbulb?

The advice above is good, and don’t hesitate to speak up next time. Maybe buy the cheese, don’t eat it, and speak to the sellers after the meeting. Maybe offer to put them in touch with someone who really knows food safety, etc.

Excellent question which gets at the nature of the slipperiness of food poisoning and why it tends to be vastly under-reported:

After the first instance of food poisoning symptoms, it can be difficult to pin point the cause because of the lag in the onset of symptoms and the fact that many of us eat more than once a day. Initially, she had attributed the symptoms to something she had eaten in a restaurant the previous day. Also, the initial poisoning came from the free sample, not the cheese she had purchased.

However, having experienced the same symptoms after having eaten the purchased cheese, she felt she had it pretty well locked down.

I was tempted to test the hypothesis myself after she had warned me, but then she threatened to kill me.