4:15pm

Wed January 23, 2013
The Salt

When Spilled Food Makes A Huge Mess (In A Tunnel Or On A Road)

Originally published on Thu January 24, 2013 9:42 am

Rarely do we consider the trucks, trains and tankers that transport our food around our cities — and around the world. It's not until an accident happens, and the food inside these vessels comes pouring out, that we remember all this food in motion around us, and how damaging it can be when it spills.

The truth is, a lot of food is extremely sticky, bulky — and sometimes, flammable. And apparently, the people who move it around are just as accident prone as the rest of us.

At least, that's what struck us after reading this week about the massive goat cheese fire in Norway, in which nearly 30 tons of a specialty brown cheese called brunost caught on fire and burned for days, forcing the closure of a tunnel for an estimated two weeks.

This giant roadside cheese flambé is hardly the first food disaster to cause more than a few headaches in recent years.

Take, for example, the recent yogurt disaster of May 2012, in which 36,000 pounds of Chobani Greek yogurt spilled down a hillside in southern New York state.

Then there was the great pancake syrup fiasco of 2012: Last June, an entire semitrailer's worth of the sticky liquid spilled across Interstate 75 in Ohio and Kentucky. (Ironically, the accident occurred after the truck slammed into an overpass at — wait for it — Buttermilk Pike.) That cleanup required the expertise of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

And our pals over at The Two-Way reported in 2011 on the tanker filled with yeast extract destined for a Marmite factory in England that crashed and spilled, jamming the M1, which connects London to the northern part of England.

Food disasters can be deadly, too, as the folks at Smithsonian's Food & Think blog have noted. Some 94 years ago, Boston's North End fell victim to the great molasses tragedy, when a giant tank capable of holding more than 2 million gallons of the sticky stuff exploded. The blast and ensuing mini-tsunami of molasses killed 21 people and injured 150 others.

But not all spills are disastrous for bystanders. In China last year, when 770 pounds of eggs spilled out of a truck in a traffic accident, locals used it as an opportunity to stock up. You can watch the video on YouTube here.

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