Tabasco may disappear from restaurants because of climate change

2018-04-04 15:43
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Tabasco hot pepper sauce in package

(Photo: Tabasco hot sauce, iStock)

Cape Town - Many industries have felt the negative effects of climate change, and the producers of Tabasco sauce are no different. With oil spills and major weather events, the Louisiana region where the company farms is regularly faced with difficulties. Bland food may never be made palatable again.

Not too far off the Louisiana coast in the US is Avery Island - the ancestral home of Tabasco sauce. A salt-fringed outpost, the land has been used since 1868 in the production of the now world-famous pepper sauce. Following a set 150-year-old recipe, the one variable that the family of founder Edmund McIlhenny did not expect was climate change. 

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Avery Island is one of the highest pieces of land in the area owing to its geological formation as a salt dome. It rises 49m above sea level, which makes it stand out amongst the otherwise flat coast of Louisiana. The island is basically a big hill of salt is surrounded by marsh. As canals are dug and developed by the extraction industry, saltwater seeps into the marshes. The effect of this process is vegetation loss which in turn creates conditions conducive to soil erosion. The outer edges of Avery Island are thus slowly falling apart and the island is shrinking, according to the Geological Society of America (GSA)

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To add to the woes of the Tabasco company, the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that the warming rising ocean associated with climate change is exacerbating the destruction of the marsh, further contributing to the erosion of the island.

The Louisianian coast has the not-so-great achievement of being the area where an American football field of land is lost every 100 minutes, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Of major concern is that the rising sea level will cause irreparable damage to the area where the chilli peppers are planted as well as harming the salt mines which has been supplying a crucial element of the Tabasco sauce for 150 years. 

This is not the first time that the McIlhenny company has been threatened by nature. In 2005, Hurricane Rita slammed into the island causing massive damage to the production facilities on the island. The company responded to that event by setting up a levee replete with a pump system to protect the factory from future storms and natural disasters.

Beyond just bolstering their worst-case scenario readiness, the McIlhenny company has also thrown itself head-first into preemptive work wetland restoration. According to The Guardian, to halt the continued inflow of saltwater with all of its negative consequences for Avery Island, weirs have been set up and canals have been refilled. Facing the threat of potentially being forced off their ancestral land, the company, and family, is doing everything it can to prevent that from happening. 

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To see more of Avery Island, watch the video below: