The fish may get caught locally, but it has to travel to Melbourne and get sold to wholesalers before it then returns to the Bay to be sold at retail outlets. So much for eating local.
And at a time when there is a growing desire and expectation of reducing our impact by minimising food miles, there seems to be a ridiculous level of tangled tape in terms of food regulations to stop us doing so.
It’s therefore heartening news that the state government is trialling an initiative allowing some fishers to sell direct to the public, yes, just like the good old days. Now we will be able to go into our fish co-op and know the fish is straight from the boat.
I’m not arguing that food regulations are unnecessary but I am arguing that there seems to be more than a little hysteria created by the idea of salmonella or E.coli and other food nasties that has pushed us to a level of overkill.
Even the long-practised selling of excess eggs is frowned upon now, with small suppliers having to meet stringent guidelines with regards to preparation and date stamping.
I know the eggs my chickens have laid are fresh, I gently wipe the shells if they need it and my neighbours and friends would happily buy them, so it seems ridiculous that I can’t sell them to make some money to buy chook food to keep the cycle going.
Similarly, to legitimately sell my honey I am supposed to only use new jars – despite the overabundance of jars that haunt many a cupboard in kitchens throughout suburbia.
To make any money to help keep my bees happy and healthy, I am not allowed to clean and sterilise those jars and re-use them. Instead, I have to add to the mountain of waste and buy new ones. I’m also supposed to hire out a commercial kitchen. Meanwhile plastic containers full of imported and adulterated “honey” are offered instead of my local, pure harvest.
And who else was horrified at the gobsmacking fruit and veg standards imposed by the large supermarket chains as shown in the ABC show War on Waste? Who knew that bananas have to go through a beauty check leading to tonnes just getting thrown away?
We do not have the right or the time to be so precious about the looks of our food any more – it’s concerning that we have even got to the stage where we think a blemish on an apple means we need to throw it out because it’s dirty or dangerous.
Yes, people can get sick from bad food practices, and food poisoning is beyond awful, but we can’t let the small possibility of these things hold us back from reviewing some of the laws that actually have a bigger impact on the environment than not having the law in the first place.
So, let me buy fish straight from the person who caught it. I’ll take my chances – and the chances are most likely that I’ll have a bloody nice dinner.
Nicola Philp is a writer and beekeeper based in Apollo Bay.