Marks Daily Apple
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27 Nov

How Safe Is Our Food?

eggBig Agra has gotten us into an interesting (and sickening) predicament. In light of a solid year of squeamish food poisoning issues, there are clearly some chinks in the armor of food safety. But is it really the government’s role to step in and regulate food safety further? Unfortunately, regulation tends to harm the good guys – raw almonds today, organic spinach yesterday, dairy for far too long now – and effectively underwrite large corporate agricultural interests. And yet. And yet. Currently, testing outfits that monitor food safety so our beef, lettuce, eggs and chicken are ostensibly edible are paid for by the very agricultural interests they test. In other words, it’s a recipe for corruption. While labs may be impartial, the results they gather when testing at-risk foods (such as meat and imported goods) are given over to the company and it’s on the company to report anything to the FDA. That is, the labs don’t have a way to send results directly to a presumably – and I realize the generosity of this idea – impartial guardian of public health. If one lab doesn’t “find” the “right” results, it’s fairly easy for the food company to find another, more affable laboratory. Still, I’m not sure that introducing increased FDA regulation or oversight is the solution here. But since I can’t even keep up with all the burgers that have been recalled since the summer, I feel compelled to ask you:

What do we do?

Osi Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?

My Beef with Grains

What I Eat in a Day

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  1. I would agree that government intervention/regulation usually ends up being (pick your own description) corrupt. Though the best option, all things equal, would be for people (free market) to stop buying stuff from the companies that don’t use safe practices, growing, etc. That would get the companies to change quickly. The problem is things are not equal and people don’t know the real risks involved. You can pick why they’re not equal. A good start would be government subsidies. Lobbyists would probably be better since they got the subsidies in the first part. I think it would basically take a big reformation of the government to be able to fix it their side.

    I know its going to sound bad but I think that only a big contamination/whatever with a lot of people getting sick/dying might be enough to effect some meaningful change. Maybe many small ones in a short period of time. Americans have a short memory and a shorter view of things that effect their health (readers of this blog withstanding). I hope it could happen another way, but I remain doubtful. Not sure the corn/livestock associations would ever let livestock go back to being grassfed and pastured where the infections such as E. coli are much less likely.

    Joe Matasic wrote on November 28th, 2007
  2. Spot on comments, Joe. Although I’m not sure even a big catastrophe is enough to effect change (Katrina comes to mind). Hate to be cynical, though.

    Mark Sisson wrote on November 28th, 2007

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