According to a recent CBC news story from March 18, a Prince Edward Island couple who operate a small bed and breakfast on the island were visited by a health inspector who forbade them to continue serving meals made with eggs from their own hens. The story goes on to say that the inspectors assert that the regulations behind their action are not new but have been on the books for a long time. The couple, Paul and Jean Offer, are so upset by the whole thing that they are going to close their B&B rather than buy supermarket eggs for their guests.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the same sort of things go on in other jurisdictions. One Ontario farmer that I know was upset when he first heard several years ago about new requirements for eggs to be graded before being sold to customers, and so he called up the government department responsible for the ruling and asserted that he was going to break the law and that they should come and arrest him. Guess what. They declined to do so. They apparently didn’t want a fuss kicked up when the law was introduced, and the best way they saw to do that was to not enforce it for a while. Now that case was a few years ago, and more recently the enforcement of such regulations has been ramped up.
One instance of this sort of enforcement involved a private school north of Toronto where health inspectors forbade teachers from having preschoolers collect eggs from the school’s own chickens, then cook and eat them in the school’s kitchen. Once again the problem was that the eggs were not passing through a government approved inspection and grading process. The view of food safety implied in this requirement clearly places little value on the freshness and localness you can get from having your own backyard hens, not to mention the feeling of wholeness and integration children get from participating in the full process from farm to table. Rather, what this teaches, is that a narrow definition of food safety trumps all these values.
As seen in the outcome of the CBC story mentioned at the start, this action by regulators undermines and impoverishes local culture and tourist attractions on P.E.I. Meanwhile other government departments pay lip service to encouraging culinary tourism. Good luck with that, in this regulatory climate. There’s less reason to travel to a distant place if you don’t get anything special or local to eat there because government regulators decree that everyone must buy their ingredients through the supermarket food chain. So it’s a lose lose situation. Clearly it’s time for new values to be asserted if we’re going to be left with food worth eating.