Food safety & the politics of cheap food

From David E. Gumpert on the Complete Patient blog:

“I was explaining to a friend yesterday that the federal government in the form of the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to allow a multibillion-dollar food corporation to sell product, even after its chicken has been associated with hundreds of illnesses, many caused by pathogens that are resistant to conventional antibiotics.

He didn’t believe me. “I’m sure the chicken has been recalled,” he said. No, I explained, it hasn’t. Nor has the producer been shut down.

“Well, something must be going on so the chicken isn’t being sold,” he concluded, hopefully. 

No, nothing. In fact, NBC News, Food Safety News, and others are reporting that the USDA has approved the company’s promise to fix whatever was causing the serious illnesses–no recall or shutdown, or even an apology, required.

I find this kind of reaction from people I know–generally enlightened people who consider themselves progressive thinkers–pretty typical. When I explain that two-thirds or more of the chicken sold in supermarkets has long been contaminated with salmonella or campylobacter, they shrug. When I express outrage that raw milk and raw milk cheese that hasn’t made anyone sick is sometimes confiscated, discarded into landfills, and the producers closed down amid cries that they be tarred and feathered, these individuals look at me like I am crazy.

I can tell what they are thinking: The chicken must not be a threat, and the raw dairy products must be a problem. The government scientists must know something that I, in my zealotry, am not telling them.

The fact that big corporations control the food marketplace and dictate to government officials what is allowed and not allowed has come to be accepted by most people as part and parcel of “the system.” Whatever the excesses of the corrupt relationships, they console themselves, surely the government wouldn’t allow big corporations to sell food that makes people sick. This is the U.S.A., after all, with the world’s most modern food, health and medical systems in the world!….”

Read more on The Complete Patient blog.

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