Monday, November 29, 2010

A Food Poisoned Society is a Polite Society

The jackbooted thugs enforcing nanny state totalitarianism are trying to pass food safety laws, opposed by Republicans. They evidently think freedom means nothing unless food producers can feed listeria and salmonella to the citizenry:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 5,000 Americans annually die from a food-borne illness. Last year, at the height of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands, spread via tainted peanut butter, the Westco Fruit and Nuts company refused for weeks to recall potentially contaminated products, despite requests from the F.D.A.

And as for spending that extra $300 million every year, a recent study by Georgetown University found that the annual cost of food-borne illness in the United States is about $152 billion...

By one estimate, the kinds of farms that the bill would exempt represent less than 1 percent of the food marketplace. Does the food industry really want to sabotage an effort to ensure the safety of 99 percent of that marketplace because it is so deeply concerned about under-regulation of 1 percent? The largest outbreaks are routinely caused by the largest processors, not by small producers selling their goods at farmers’ markets.

The bill's been amended to answer small producers' worries, out of which arise some of the opposition. The authors of the article, Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, have as much credibility on the subject as anyone in the country.

Barfing, shitting your brains out, and occasionally dying. An American's right, arising out of the Founders' original intent...


carphil80 said...

Agreed, the authors have great cred.

Inasmuch as the inner hippie in me wants to say, let's all grow our own organic food, thereby saving the US government--and accordingly, US taxpayers--some coin, I cannot in good conscience take such a position. First, my inclination is not pragmatic for most. More importantly, I believe that government has certain moral obligations to its citizens.

I am especially concerned about the safety of the food supply because one of my children has developed an autoimmune disease. Therefore, the issue hits home at present.

Less selfishly, though, I am concerned for the upward trend toward development of autoimmune conditions within the general population. Are endocrine disrupting food additives/agricultural products complicit? Perhaps. By-products of environmental waste? Possibly. I only know that there exist all sorts of gene mutations--including many we have yet to discover--whose untoward physiologic effects are switched on by elements within the food chain (such as hormones inherent in, and added to, meat and dairy products) that are where they are BY INTENTION.

The potential for unforeseen elements to cause disease is huge. In the cases of immuno-compromised persons, this potential is one of actually causing death, rather than just illness.

My thoughts are that government has a moral obligation to try to prevent harm to consumers to the extent possible under the letter of law and Constitution. (However, as I am no expert on Constitutional law I would like to hear opinions or facts.)

Caroline A. Phillips
Basking Ridge, NJ

ProfWombat said...

No Constitutional duty, alas, though it seems to me so basic to the social contract that I can't imagine why it's controversial. And yes, food safety is highly non-trivial to many--HIV/Aids patients, cancer survivors and chemo patients, many others--and hormones and other endocrine disruptors are an emerging issue. Antibiotic use and resistance, too.

Ruth said...

As I have a close relationship with an Ag Dept employee, I am aware that when the last administration came into office, it immediately turned food inspections into a voluntary process, eliminating a lot of control over ag. production.

ProfWombat said...

Voluntary works not at all when the negative externalities aren't your problem, and regulatory capture substitutes collusion for accountability.

Anonymous said...

You completed some good points there. I did a search on the theme and found the majority of persons will have the same opinion with your blog.

ProfWombat said...

anon: thank you, and, too, thanks for visiting