Pulling Together


The Great White Cabbage Recall

Today I tried to buy a white cabbage in Sainsbury’s. That seemed straightforward enough. I found a box of white cabbages on the shelves, I selected a largish specimen, and put it in my bag. After finding a few more items, and failing to find some routine groceries which for some strange reason were not in stock, I tried to pay for it.

That was when the trouble began. I scanned the bar-coded items and placed the cabbage on the scales. I selected the “Green Vegetables” but it wasn’t there. Fair enough, I thought, someone’s being pedantic about it being white cabbage. I tried “Other Vegetables” but it wasn’t there either. “Exotic Vegetables?” Surely not! I tried all the vegetable categories but it was listed in none. It was time to press another button; the one labelled “Help”. A young woman came over to check. Was I sure it wasn’t a Savoy cabbage? Yes, I was. She said she’d get a colleague over to help. A man appeared in due course, took one look at the item on the scales and said,

“These have been recalled. It seems odd, I know, but I thought they’d all been taken off the shelves. Sorry, sir, we’re not allowed to sell them.”

With that, he picked up the item and walked away with it towards the vegetable section, leaving me with one less thing to eat over the weekend.

I’m intrigued. What could possibly cause cabbages to be recalled? Recalls usually imply a safety issue, but what could possibly be unsafe about a cabbage? It's a natural product. It grows in the ground. Am I to believe the genes in these particular cabbages somehow got the assembly process wrong, using the wrong proteins in their growth? Perhaps the Special Branch have uncovered a terrorist plot to sabotage vegetables to do... what exactly? Are they contaminated with a lethal poison? Have they hybridised with trifids or that small plant from The Little Shop of Horrors and are just waiting for their moment to pounce? More to the point, if they’re being recalled, what should people do who’ve already bought one? Should they take them to a Police station, call Bomb Disposal, take them back to the shop? I can find no instructions in the media. What about people who’ve already eaten one? Should they call an ambulance, go to A & E, make an appointment with their doctor (try explaining that to a receptionist). Surely we ought to be told. People will worry.

I know we live in a risk-averse world where people now take seriously issues which would have been thought trivial and frivolous in previous generations, but to recall cabbages without explanation and expect people to believe there’s a real problem seems to be a new departure. What risk could there possibly be in selling cabbages, whatever the colour?

I have attempted to contact Sainsbury’s for more information on this, but there is no information about it on their website and they provide no written method outside social media for contact. However, white cabbage is listed on their shopping page as “not currently available”.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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